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Remembering our personal political power

Written By: - Date published: 12:32 pm, June 27th, 2016 - 23 comments
Categories: class war, Europe, political alternatives, political education, uk politics, vision - Tags: , ,

One of the useful dynamics from the Brexit vote is the demonstration that the major power holders in society don’t control everything. There seems to be a fair amount of post-referendum panic, but London-based Brit/Canadian/Kiwi Chris Gilson reminds Brits that there are practical things that most people can do right now. These are suggestions especially for (relatively well off) Remain voters surprised by the vote, but most also have validity across the spectrum. They are not are a replacement for other ways of addressing political chaos, nor a panacea, but they have the benefit of empowering individuals to act and they happen to be the things we should be doing anyway to build and maintain fair societies (they can equally be applied in NZ and will be more effective if we do them before tshtf).

Join a political party. Like it or not, political parties are still the dominant force for creating change in this country. Think they don’t matter? Remember that without the influence of UKIP – a relatively small political party, which has never got more than 20 percent of the vote in a general election – we would never of had this referendum in the first place. So join a party. Any party. Work with local campaigners and groups so that you do have a say.

Join a big national group campaigning for social justice as a volunteer. In straitened times, civil society is hugely important. Find a topic you care about – homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, whatever, and see what the national charity which is trying to tackle it needs. It might be a donation, it might be volunteering time.

Donate time join a local group in your neighbourhood. There’s a saying – all politics are local. So make a difference locally. Volunteer for your local neighborhood association, church, or schools. Apply to join the local school PTA or Board of Governors. It’s as easy as plugging the name of your local area and “volunteer” into Google.

Donate stuff. If you don’t have time to give time, find out how to give away things that local groups need. Find your local foodbank and give them some extra tins and nappies once a week after you do your shop. Contact your nearest women’s refuge and see if they need anything. Declutter (it’s the in thing now) and give away old clothes and kitchen items to your local charity shop.

Don’t move away. Toronto, Berlin, Melbourne and even Edinburgh are looking pretty good right now, aren’t they? It’s an irony that a lot of people who argued that we needed to stay in Europe – even though it was hard – to try and make it better, are now looking to get out of the UK themselves. Remember, a huge number of people can’t leave. They may not be able to afford it. They have family responsibilities. They may not be able to move for health reasons. So I say, stay. Stay and make things better. Use the power that you do have.

Buy British. The economy is taking a huge hit. Do what you can to blunt the effects of Brexit by buying stuff that’s made here. That includes holidaying here. Bradford has great curry, Bristol is brilliant, and Wales can be beautiful.

Get the hell out of this echo chamber. I have spoken to so many people in the last few weeks who have said “I don’t know anyone who is voting Leave”. Whoops. Social media has captured us all in echo chambers of our own making. We’re stuck talking to people who share our opinion and we collectively pat ourselves on the back for being part of the group that “must be right”. Over 16 million people voted to Leave. Why? Get out and talk to people. Chat in the pub. Chat on the bus. Talk on the tube. Speak to someone who you might not agree with. And listen.

Talk to those that you love about what’s going to happen in your future. The country is going to change, and that affects you and those that are closest to you. Now’s the time to talk to them about what you want, and where you want to be. Maybe you want to go somewhere else? (In that case, see 5). Is your job secure? Do you need to retrain? Is there anyone in the circle of people that you love that you should now try and be closer to because they’re going to be affected by all this more than you? Is there anyone you need to help?

Speak up. See racism, sexism, homophobia or anti immigrant sentiment? Confront it if you can and if it’s safe to do so. The police may even be on your side. Most people aren’t prejudiced, and this is something we can tackle through sheer numbers. If you see someone being abused for being an immigrant, ask others nearby to confront it with you. Don’t underestimate the power of the phrase, “This isn’t on, is it?”

Keep holding those in power to account. Write to your MP about what pisses you off about the government. They read those letters, I can tell you. Use the Freedom of Information Act to find out stuff from government and public authorities when you think they’re being dodgy. Keep an eye on what your council is up to, and don’t be afraid to object to things when you’re not happy with what they propose.

Don’t give up hope. Turn the clock back to 1936, 1940, 1979, and the rest. Things looked pretty bad. Things looked pretty hopeless. But things got better. We did come together to make a better future for us and our kids. We have one hell of a hangover right now, but if our history tells us anything, we’re resilient as hell, and given enough time, we can fix things.

23 comments on “Remembering our personal political power”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Well said Weka.

    A case in point from NRT:

    …its good to see Parliament standing up against the constitutional abuses of the National government…

    One person can have a large impact.

  2. adam 2

    I like this, it reminds people that democracy actually takes them to do some work.

    The echo chamber most relevant, I talk to right libertarians overseas all the time, as opposed to the ones here, who I find have fallen into their own echo chamber.

    I find talking or reading what the other side has to say quite useful, and keeps you grounded. Brexit was no shock to me. Nor has the aftermath, of open warfare between factions.

    It has helped solidify a view of the centre having radicals, and rather vicious ones at that. And we have had these radical centrists control politics for some time. With sections of conservatives and social democrats willing at any turn, to crush any full flowering of democracy.

    • weka 2.1

      I’ve been especially appreciating your comments over the past few days adam.

      The centre having radicals thing is great. It’s a bit off topic, but can you say more about that? (it may be relevant to the Remain voters who consider themselves moderate too).

      “I like this, it reminds people that democracy actually takes them to do some work.”

      Yep, that’s the one. And it’s not just the politicians that need to be involved.

      • adam 2.1.1

        Well the less politicians are involved – the better. In my opinion.

        As for radical centrist – I’m working on something, I’m going to let Bill look at.

        Funny enough it began for me as a jibe at my libertarian mates – for the way they kept getting sold out by a ‘radical centre’ of the Republicans. Then it got thrown back at me, via the actions of the DNC towards the left/socialist inside the Democrat’s. So we had a few discussions – still on going. In other words I’ve been trying to flesh it out.

        Should note, I’m not the only one who has been thinking about this. Kshama Sawant and Chris Hedges used the exact term recently, and re-reading some Murray Bookchin has really pushed me there. I think others are seeing the same thing.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1

          Well the less politicians are involved – the better. In my opinion.

          As for radical centrist – I’m working on something, I’m going to let Bill look at.

          Please do keep in touch with me on this Adam, I am very interested. My political team is working on something as well and perhaps there are synergies between what we have in mind that could be exploited. As it were.

        • weka 2.1.1.2

          Look forward to seeing more adam, thanks for the outline and references too.

  3. mosa 3

    Good points here Weka its all about getting involved and contributing where you can too make a difference.
    For gods sake if kiwis can get behind a rugby team in an expression of nationalisim we can get active in the ways you have suggested.
    The louder the voice the more it gets listened too and real democracy is available to anyone who wants to do their bit to advance it whatever the cause and we have plenty of those on offer.
    Thanks for the reminder, its a perfect time for a call to action.

    • Greg 3.1

      Sometimes you just cant beat blind ideology.
      National and the TPPA for instance, the cabinet signs trade deals, and they are only answerable to Key, whose backers want a FTA with America at any cost, even if its a near worthless one.

      Ideology Trumps rationalism= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

      Its all fine being political, but there needs to be clear consistent policy, social agenda,
      and what the Party stands for.
      Not TV sound bites, but policies of substance.

      Getting rid of Zero Hour contracts is possible there, its been done in New Zealand.
      Thats an economic victory for workers.

  4. AmaKiwi 4

    One more thing you can do:

    Get rich by becoming a lawyer specializing in EU law.

    On a serious note, with the unraveling of globalization will come strident demands for certainty (i.e., dictatorship). This is the greatest danger I see.

    • Greg 4.1

      If the EU toothless parliament forces an early Brexit, EU law is worth what?

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        EU law still governs a huge amount of commercial, manufacturing, product and service provision within the EU.

        • Greg 4.1.1.1

          Well, if it exists it does, dont you think its kind of a gamble now,where do lawyers change profession too?

          • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1

            Don’t panic.

            • Greg 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Dads Army, Red Drawf, or HMS Titanic…Britain’s former colonies have a lot of great stuff to sell now, and likely pretty cheaply, and with no EU-French regulations to protect there own agriculture interests,

          • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.1.2

            Parliament & city councils mostly.

      • AmaKiwi 4.1.2

        @ Greg

        Greg, do you have no sense of humor?

        My point is that untangling this Brexit mess will be a bonanza for lawyers who specialize in EU law.

        The Donald is advertising the new Trump University School of EU Law. (Greg, that’s a joke, too.)

  5. McFlock 5

    Good list.

    I think the nub of it is that it’s all well and good having discussions about things that we will never have any real control over, but we also need to keep an eye out for what little things we can do here, locally or broader than that.

    It might be a party meeting, a petition, a letter to the editor, coins in a bucket, or maybe choosing a better job over a better-paying or better-for-me job.

    I would also add one little thing about getting out of the echo chamber – get into something completely different from your main time-occupier. I’m not sporty at all, but I have a couple of physical hobbies and crafts to get me out of the keyboard-warrior mode. I can talk about more than politics at parties 🙂

  6. Pat 6

    those are the words of a very concerned individual

  7. Incognito 7

    Good post and a good list.

    One thing that seems to be taken for granted that shouldn’t is that in New Zealand about one million eligible people couldn’t be bothered to vote at all. Talking about squandering your personal political power!

    • Rocco Siffredi 7.1

      But they have voted. They voted to accept the result regardless of what it was.

      • Incognito 7.1.1

        Many but not all voted. Apparently, millions weren’t even registered and the turnout among the younger ones was especially poor despite the fact that they had most to gain by voting and most to lose by not voting. Go figure!

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