After much soul searching, I’m going to vote for the first time ever this Thursday.
Since holding my nose to register and receiving my polling card, I’ve arrived at a few personal realisations about the spectrum of activism I now find myself occupying.
For a long time, I’ve understood that voting versus protest versus direct action are all false paradoxes. Voting and protesting are appeals to power (or demands from it), while direct action takes power back. Clearly, none of these forms are by any means mutually exclusive from each other. In fact, separated from each other they are all extremely limited methods of influencing change.
What I’ve come to realise is that the limitations of all these forms might only be overcome by practising them all at once.
People have argued this case with me forever, but I could never abide our hopelessly corrupt electoral system. They were frustrated by my unwillingness to participate in elections and I was frustrated by their willingness to follow a narrative controlled by the establishment.
I could never accept party politics because it never seemed like a feasible way of influencing actual change before. Parliament is (was?) too corrupt – tightly controlled by crude but effective hypnotists, (‘spin doctors’) on behalf of greedy, opportunistic psychopaths (‘masters of the universe’).
It’s terrifying that the kind of changes a Corbyn Government promise only seem possible now because they are so desperately overdue…
The sorts of changes we need to mitigate the effects of the various converging catastrophes around the world are monumental. I’ve been earnestly, relentlessly campaigning for these sorts of changes for a decade and a half now.
For a long time I signed petitions and protested, marching from point A to point B, but eventually I stopped wasting my time. Power either ignored, marginalised or suppressed all these forms. It felt like direct action was the only game in town if you really wanted to influence positive change.
I came to see parliamentary democracy as beneath my contempt. An elaborate spectacle to distract, divide and disempower us all.
So, instead of writing letters and occasionally ticking a cross in a box, I focused all my efforts on supporting small and increasingly large scale grassroots movements and direct action groups. (including campaigns to reclaim, unlock or otherwise Occupy Democracy).
Without fully realising it, I have been enduring the cognitive dissonance of campaigning outside the system for systemic changes. My only involvement in party politics has been cheering the few heroic exceptions and booing the many villains. Almost meaningless (except for the lulz…).
Unless we all actually negotiate with power, we can’t achieve the scale of change that’s necessary in time. (It’s already too late).
Until very recently, it felt like we were fighting an inexorable descent into unimaginably horrific dystopia. Then, from out of nowhere, Corbz has somehow managed to turn things around.
Where just a few years ago, our hopes and dreams were branded either naive utopianism or dangerous Thought Crime – they are now considered respectable, realistic and necessary.
With a few notable exceptions, the 2017 Labour Manifesto is a concrete wishlist for most of the fundamental changes we’ve all been fighting so hard for.
It might be our last, vanishing opportunity to reclaim democracy, before neo-liberalism destroys it.
It’s not just that Jeremy Corbyn and co have successfully changed the parameters of parliamentary debate. It’s not just that the tone has changed. The engagement with society at large and thereby the veracity of the discussion has improved dramatically. Completely. Beyond all recognition.
Regardless the result, on June 9th we will get a government. What’s exciting about this moment is that it’s actually being led by the grassroots. It really feels like a momentous change in the way we do politics is finally starting to happen.
It’s not about Corbyn, as he would probably tell you himself. It’s about us. Me and you. Our family and friends and all the friends we haven’t met yet around the world. It’s about the policies in the manifesto and the way they were put together. It’s about our futures. It’s about the internet and social media. It’s about war and peace, life and death. Utopia and dystopia. Ideals and compromises. Kinder politics or back to bullshit as usual.
For the first time in my adult life there is a glimmer of hope for real democracy and with it the tools to change the world for the better…but only if we all remain active after June 8th, whatever the outcome. It’s not about who wins. It’s about what happens next: how many of us maintain focus and momentum after this election.
However it turns out, I can safely predict more tiresome ‘Labour party infighting’, crude ‘Chicken Coup’ leadership challenges and other shenanigans to undermine the progressive agenda. (Hopefully this will lead to a purge of the toxic
Blairite scum ‘neo-liberals’…)
We, the spectators and commentators are once again asserting our right to meaningfully participate in this squalid pantomime. That’s going to mean much more than ticking a box this Thursday and simply hoping that Corbyn will fix everything. He’s not the messiah, he’s just a very nice man who has helped create a slim window of opportunity which we must now help pries open.
I’m reminded of Occupy Democracy’s core message, which rallied thousands to the tarpaulin revolution on Parliament Square. “Our democracy has been hijacked”. “We need to repair it, in order to fix the world”.
‘Repairing Democracy’ means taking it back. Participating in it. Owning it. Not for one day every 5 years but every day that we’re able to. Not simply following an agenda, but setting it. Protesting, taking direct action and lobbying power directly through their rotten corridors…writing letters…signing petitions… constituency surgeries…meetings…rallies…polls…voting…(..shudder…)…
Good luck everybody. Stay sane. Don’t burn out. Keep it lit.
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