“i am not interested in politics.” it is a simple sentence i myself heard multiple times, when it comes to political issues. but what does that mean? not interested? to me this sounds very much like the daily routine of coming home, emptying the mailbox on the way and before even reaching the door, having sorted the necessarily-interested-bank-statements and -bills in a pile with the actually-interested-postcard-from-friends-traveling-abroad from the not-interested-trash-pile that goes back to where it came from before you even take a further look at it. not interested.
in a world where the daily amount of spam-emails and costumer-service(-actually-meaning-economical-consumer-belly-petting)-letters far from exceed any necessary information, the skill to sort out “uninteresting” information is indeed valuable. but one has to be careful by doing so, for it might just happen that while throwing away the trash you do not realize that between that pile of rubbish was a letter, saying you won a million dollars or euros or monopoly money. this is indeed the dream of almost every human being, isn’t it? to win the lottery. what is it we associate with it? luxury, with everything it entails from being able to buy whatever you want and do whatever you want – meaning economical well-being and (seemingly unlimited) mobility and possibility. and power – meaning we are able to influence what happens around us.
now let’s take a step back. the foundation of democracy, of this one glorified system of organization of governance, is that the power lies in people’s hands. people meaning every single one of us. never in the history of governance did so many people (i would like to use the word “all” for dramatic reasons, but the fact is it, that we are still far from the notion that “everyone who is governed has a right to vote” – an interpretation of a quote by Sir Arthur Lewis) have in fact the power to influence what happens in the country they live in. but influence is a too abstract word in order to grasp what is meant by this power that democracy gives to people. so let’s take an example to illustrate it: the economic system is the one thing people worry about most. granted, everybody wants to make a living – even people who are not interested in politics. by electing a political party, you chose what is going to happen in your country – at least within the next years: whether or not taxes are increased or lowered, whether or not tax-money is used for highways or schools or churches or health care or military technology or in creating jobs, whether or not the state intervenes in the economical market by redistributing money or whether the state leaves the economy to the invisible hand – laissez faire!
so what does that mean? by using your power, given to you by the system called democracy, you can influence (there is the word again) how well you will be off – you can influence your economical well-being. of course, people in different situations have different interests and depending on how many proclaim their interests by voting they will be represented in government and actually influence the outcome. so if you are not satisfied with a situation, with something that was done or is about to be done by a government who’s duty it is to work for the people and render and account of what they do and why they do it, especially if you oppose, why do you shut up? because you are not interested in politics?
remember when you were a child and your mother asked you which ice-cream you want. say you chose “vanilla” but she brought you chocolate instead, did you shut up? no, you probably resisted, with success or without – the point is you reacted. say you are twenty, still living off your parents expenses and your father brings you chocolate instead of vanilla. do you shut up? given the situation with politics the picture looks like this: you would indeed shut up and instead of getting a job in order to buy your own ice cream you will dream about winning the lottery. for instead of participating in a model of governance, by taking a stand and voicing the opinion, in order to influence their own well-being in the state, it seems, people spend more energy and money into hoping to win the lottery to have power and economic well-being?
to finish the lottery example – i also mentioned mobility and possibility. in case there is people who do not know where this is heading – let me spell it out: the democratic states of the european continent have formed economic alliances and political bonds, in order to assure free movement of goods and services and people. this opens up a rich field of possibilities for travel and job opportunities, for intercultural exchange and a working-together-, helping-together- and learning-from-each-other -culture. one might of course argue, that the european union is special in its being, so let me give another example: think about what “united states” stand for? what do you think, how everyday life in the US would look like today if the thirteen states would not have chosen to work together the way they did.
i am not proposing that democracy is the ultimate system and i am not saying that following the daily discussion in political matters can not be tiring. but i do want to stress the point of civil responsibility to be aware of what happens around you and to use the system provided to make your interests be heard. democracy is founded in participation – if we do not participate, democracy is the wrong system.