I have been on a very interesting journey throughout the past year. My outlook on politics, economics and social issues definitely reflect that. I have gone from being extremely enthusiastic about these topics, to paying absolutely no attention to them, back to showing interest again. In this post I will explain why that was, what I’ve learnt from it and try to answer if it is actually worth it, following politics and current affairs.
I personally started following politics when I was 16 years old. It was something that really sparked a fire inside me. I loved learning about different political ideologies, the economy, social issues and much more. I would watch youtube videos, read articles, and listen to debates. All things that would make my brain race a hundred miles an hour for quite some time after. After a while it became all-consuming. I literally could not stop thinking about certain issues and things I had seen or read. My brain had no peace, it was working twenty-four seven with no time for rest. Fast-forward about a year and a half later, I had decided it was time to change my tune.
Come the start of 2021, I was met with a cross-roads. 2020 had been the absolute climax when it came to politics. Covid first emerged and New Zealand had an election, The United States had an election, not to mention a plephera of societal issues that popped up during the year such as the BLM movement after George Floyd was murdered. If I was being honest though, I was tired of it all, burnt out of following politics. It felt like it was too mentally draining and too time consuming to have to follow all the time. I had left school and was working full time, so I didn’t really see the need in stressing out about it. Why get myself vented up over political issues when I could just be chilling and watching Anime! There were other things I wasn’t happy about too. I wanted to work on myself, build my confidence and explore different things. I couldn’t do that if I was consumed by social issues and current affairs all the time. So I didn’t follow, hear or talk about politics for well over half a year.
That 6 month period was extremely peaceful. I found out ignorance really was bliss. I had time to focus on myself and was at ease with life. I figured out there were a lot of pros to being disconnected from news and politics. I didn’t get frustrated over things that were way out of my control, I wasn’t angry or resentful. In fact, I had come to the conclusion that politics didn’t play a role in our lives at all. I was certain the world would be a better place if people stopped participating in our democracy, if we didn’t pay attention to any social, economic or political issues. I was soon to be corrected however. As soon as the first case of Delta was detected in New Zealand’s community, the whole country was plunged into a strict lockdown. It was a very frustrating time, especially for the South Island who had zero covid cases. Being an essential worker, I still had my regular work routine throughout the week, but come the weekend everything was shut down. To use a bit of hyperbole, it was like living in a dystopian nightmare. This made one thing very clear to me, that politics does indeed play a very big role in the daily lives of ordinary citizens, whether we like to admit it or not.
I gradually started immersing myself in current affairs and politics again. This time, however, I was coming at it from a completely different angle. I was at ease with life and happy with who I was as a person and who I was becoming. I had actual real world experience having been working full time and had a sense of how political/economic/social decisions actually impacted people and workers on the front line. I went about it the right way, never getting angry or tense about any issue, just understanding both sides and making my own mind up with the information at hand. If the opportunity ever presented itself I would engage in political discussion, but I never went out of my way to bring it up in normal every day conversations. I came to the conclusion that being interested in politics, social issues and current affairs can actually be very fulfilling, if done properly. It nurtures your intellect and adds another interesting dimension to life. This is why I truly believe everyone would be interested in current political and societal issues.
I completely understand why so many people are disinterested in following such a polarising and blood boiling thing. Why so many people feel like their voice doesn’t matter. Yet it one hundred percent does. As I figured out, you go through life thinking politics and politicians won’t affect you, until they do. Unfortunately most people act after the fact, when it’s too late and decisions and policies certain politicians have made are near irreversible. New Zealand is one of the fortunate countries in the world that actually is a liberal democracy. We must appreciate how lucky we are to live in such a prosperous society that gives people from all walks of life a voice and a say, in how we run the country. Everyone’s voice is important, each of us have our own life experiences, our own beliefs and ways of being which all benefit our society for the better. It is important these people make their voices heard and contribute to the amazing societal structure that is liberal democracy. If people refuse to participate in democracy or choose ignorance over being informed, all the power goes into the hands of the politicians. We can’t have that. Liberal democracy is a structure made by the people, for the people. Politicians must listen to us, not the other way around. Democracy yields the best results when people are fully engaged and participate avidly. When people are oblivious to what is going on, politics becomes a breeding ground for tyrannical politicians to emerge.
Overall, I truly feel like it is better to be informed about current affairs and politics than to be ignorant. This is within reason, however, don’t be the one person who ruins a family gathering by bringing politics up. Being informed benefits not only your own life and psyche, but also your country and therefore the world. I am not saying necessarily you need to become a politician, I couldn’t think of anything worse! Just make sure you participate in our democracy and make the decisions that are best for yourself and your community. I have been down two extremes when it comes to this stuff and I can confidently say you will thank yourself for choosing to be informed on these issues.