Well isn’t this nice. Teresa May has called a general election that has nothing whatsoever to do with the timing of a) having invoked Article 50 and b) Labour trailing 20 points behind in the polls. Nothing at all nononono….
It is almost certain that I am going to get very political in the next few weeks, because… well, fuck it… it’s the world, it’s our society, it matters, so yeah. That’s good enough.
However, before that kicks off, a few general thoughts.
1. The time is right to support fact-checkers. If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, everyone is fibbing most of the time. From the right come endless bilious articles about that evil immigrant who did something nasty to someone because Islam is fundamentally evil and look this photo of a woman from 2009 proves it; the left creates endless smug memes and false quotes or statistics to prove that right-wingers are pillocks worthy only of mockery and contempt, fundamentally stupid rather than people. On both sides, everyone has behaved like a bit of a twat.
So! Time to embrace a bit of judicious analysis of fact. With this in mind, I’d personally cheer for fullfact.org, who do precisely what they say on the cover – fact check debates, claims and headlines to offer a balanced view based on actual data. They’re not pushing a political agenda, merely an intellectual one: that critical thinking and complex argument are the basis of real change, and real discourse, in our too-fractured society.
2. Get reading outside your comfort zone. If you’re a Guardian-reader, time to look elsewhere. I mean, still read the Guardian, sure, but get a sense of what everyone else is shouting about too. And if you’re a Daily Mail fan… go crazy, pick up a copy of the Independent, and read not with a cry of ‘what wank’ but with the question in your mind: does this article offer convincing evidence-based reason for its argument, and what are the biases in the writer’s mind, and in mine?
3. REGISTER TO VOTE! That should have been first, sorry. Turnout at Brexit was 72% – a fairly decent percentage. However, what this essentially means is that one third of the country faced off against another third, to make a decision that has changed Britain forever, for everyone. We have a first-past-the-post system here, which means if you don’t get out and vote, you’re pretty much gonna be lumped with a majority government that will speak for the indubitably less-than-50% that voted for it, rather than say, the whole nation. And if you think that, given this circumstance, your vote doesn’t matter: you’re just straight up wrong. Because if Brexit and Trump has proven anything, it’s that traditional politics are all over the place right now, and there is a popular movement sweeping across Europe, and right now that movement is being played predominantly by people who are big on nationalism and anti-immigration, and if you feel that way then awesome. Get on board, the train is here. And if you don’t then bloody hell – bloody hell! – get out and vote!
4. Get with a political party. Local parties are run almost entirely by volunteers. People with full-time jobs who, as well as doing 40 hours a week, are desperately trying to fit in 6 hours of canvassing on a Saturday, 10 hours of social media and press releases Monday-Friday, 3 hours of scheming on a Thursday and 8 hours of policy-making between Tuesday-Wednesday.
In other words: they’re sorta stuffed, and the win is going to those with the largest machines and the most cash. A great deal of cash, by the way, is gonna come from very rich donors who get knighthoods for their consideration.
If you don’t think you’re gonna get a knighthood any time soon, but you’re fired up about the state of the nation – get involved. Only a few hours of door-knocking for a cause can make a huge difference. Contact a party or even a political/social organisation like More United who you believe in, volunteer, and get your voice heard over the sound of money.
5. Engage people you disagree with in discourse. And when you do so, please do so with humanity, compassion and an open mind. The fluffy left, this goes for you too. Let’s stop treating people, whole and true, like idiots. Let’s stop throwing around a language of remoaners and libtards, leavetards and all the rest of it. We all disagree; let’s find out why, with respect. Because these divisions in our society? We’re making ’em worse, and it’s stupid, and it’s artificial, and once again the only people likely to benefit are the tabloids selling copy, and the big bucks hijacking a democratic process that should belong the people, not to those with money to spend.