Politics is a strange beast and something that plenty of people don’t care to delve into. That’s understandable, seeing as political leaders have let people down in the past, leading to the belief among some people that they’re not working for the good of ordinary people but for themselves. Meanwhile, international politics can be even more confusing, as much of the important work goes on behind closed doors, leaving the average citizen clueless about the risks and rewards of engaging with other countries. This article is about re-engaging you in politics – giving you the tools to understand contemporary issues on a social, domestic, and international level.
One of the most accessible forms of contemporary politics actually happens far from the courthouses and government offices that we usually associate with politics. Street movements, supporting underrepresented groups and arguing for the provision of more rights to citizens, can change the world just as readily as a politician and their pen. You’ll no doubt have seen some social movements in the past few years – from Black Lives Matter through to the #MeToo movement. For some cases, you’ll be in adamant and passionate support of – and they might even lead you out onto the streets in protest. This is social politics, sharing your view on how society should be organized.
Understanding Social Politics
So how can you get involved in social politics? That’s easy: you’ll just need to think about the issues you’re most passionate about and find out whether there are ways to further that cause. You might find that street protests are the best way of expressing your opinion or that there are civil society groups working to influence lawmakers and everyday citizens to push your cause further up the political agenda. Getting involved in these groups will teach you a great deal about the levels of power and how ordinary citizens can take matters into their own hands, organize, and find ways to change laws in a progressive and acceptable manner.
Voting and National Politics
If you live in a democracy and you’re able to vote – which usually means that you are a citizen of the country in which you live and you’ve reached a certain threshold age – you can participate in your national elections. Such elections can determine the future course of your country, including setting monetary policy and tax rates which will affect everyone across the nation. Such votes are also about the foreign affairs stance of your country, and about the kind of society that you’d like to see built around you. Voting might seem like a tricky task, given that there’s so much to consider about each candidate and political party. So it’s worth knowing how to get an overview before you do cast your vote.
Understanding National Politics
You’ll have had some rudimentary lessons in school about the functioning of your democratic system. Still, you’ll only have a basic understanding of the policy platforms of each candidate and the party to which they belong. It’s in this respect that a little more information can be hugely important in helping you make up your mind and engage in your domestic political system. Often, youth newspapers and magazines will run a brief overview of candidates and policies. Otherwise, you should search online for modern websites that compare policies or even quiz you on your own position on certain issues before matching you with the most closely-aligned party to your beliefs. Always think for yourself, rather than following the advice of parents or teachers, so that your vote truly represents where you stand on issues.
Now, moving onto perhaps the most fascinating arena of politics in 2022: the arena in which different nation-states compete, collaborate, and sometimes collide in warfare. This is a complex field, but one that will help explain Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea in a way that you can really understand. Threats reported in newspapers can be scary, causing anxiety and worry. Getting to the bottom of what’s actually happening and how likely it might be that certain political leaders will make rash decisions with the nuclear button can help make sense of a changing and seemingly dangerous world. But with so many moving parts in play, how can you possibly make sense of international affairs?
Understanding International Politics
A good starting point here is to do some reading or to listen to academics’ lectures on platforms such as YouTube. Clifford D. May writes eloquently on the subject of recent international political developments, including those in Russia and Ukraine and the rise of China. You might also find e-books useful in determining which issues are most important to you and your beliefs and morals. While international politics can feel distant – something that you cannot involve yourself in – your domestic vote can influence policy decisions in the foreign office of your government. Education and understanding are crucial for setting a sensible position on issues of international importance.
Re-engaging in Politics
So, having given you an overview of the three main political spheres that you can get involved in, the question remains: how can you re-engage with politics if you’ve felt alienated and confused for some time? One of the first things you can do is simply talk to friends about the issues that are catching your attention in the news. Some of them might present opinions that are different to your own and that challenge your preconceptions. Others will agree with you but will offer further evidence to back up their claims that you weren’t aware of. You might also:
- Join a political party or a labor movement that you feel an affinity with, receiving their newsletters and their educational material.
- Choose to study a short course in politics, which should help you understand the major issues at play in the political realm.
- Contact your political representative, asking them for their position on certain issues that are important to you.
- Buy books on the present state of politics – social, domestic, or international – which will explain how things stand in the world today.
All of these options will help you get closer to forming a political view, or several political views, that will inform both your campaigning and your voting behavior in the future.
Why Participation is Key
Millions of people feel fairly apathetic about politics. They might have voted in the past, only to stop voting with a feeling of disenchantment. Others might have once taken to the streets in protest, only to retreat to their homes, hopeless that change isn’t possible. While these are understandable emotional reactions to not seeing the change you want to see in the world, they won’t get you any closer to seeing that change. They’ll put you on the substitutes bench, unable to influence things taking place on the pitch before you.
It’s far more effective to participate in any way you feel comfortable with. You don’t need to bang a drum at a protest in order to support a political position. You might write a blog post, send a letter to a political representative, tweet certain hashtags, or simply talk to friends and family about your views. All of these participatory measures are what make democracies strong: the ability to play gracefully with ideas in order to come to neat conclusions that’ll eventually make their way into the diaries of lawmakers. Participate in order to help generate change in your society and across the world.
There you have it: some top tips on how you can engage in different forms of politics in 2022 – an important year for politics in society, in government, and between nation-states across the globe.