Politics: what do you know?

When I was 4 there were some things that I knew. I am not sure politics was one of those things and I am not sure what I understand about politics now.

I knew 1+1 = 2. I knew to live in an intergenerational family set up behind the sweet shop that we ran was awesome. I knew Father Christmas existed. I knew the Tories were evil.

I thought I knew that the Tories wanted to quash the spirit of all humankind, and probably Father Christmas, and would be likely to steal my sweets given half a chance. I had a vague notion that people who hung around the periphery of the Royal Family, and people who had barths rather than baths were also somehow involved in this dastardly plot.

In 1992, one thing we all felt we knew was that Labour would win the General Election. Humankind had finally found the strength, the courage to rise up, and so would begin the end of all of our woes.

But then Labour did not win. And in that eerily quiet day in our school, as my classmates and I tried to come to terms with a disappointment more desolate and desperate than I can possibly explain here, my perception of the world changed forever.

A group of us trundled along to our A-Level Theatre Studies class and I recall vividly that the lesson was run more like a group bereavement session. We sat around a table and I asked the teacher, with innocent honesty “But how did they win? Nobody voted for them.”

He replied, in a voice that had hints of ‘barth’ rather than ‘bath’, “That’s why I moved here Abby: because everybody thinks like you.

It was then that I questioned absolutely everything I thought I knew. It was an event that shaped my life.

When I moved down South to pursue my studies, I met lots of people at university who also liked to talk about all the political ‘facts’ that they knew.  I never even had to say who I voted for – it was written all over my vowels.

After I graduated I worked all over the UK and then settled down to have my family. Along the way, I have been at times pretty poor and at times very well off. My accent has faded but my friendship group has grown bigger and stronger.

Some of my closest friends now vote Conservative. None of them try to quash my spirit or steal my sweets. In fact, they are very generous in every way possible.

Now I am 38, I still know that 1+1 = 2. I remain in constant bemusement that intergenerational living is seen as a tragedy. I suspect it’s a good thing that my kids don’t live anywhere near a sweet shop. I know Father Christmas doesn’t exist, but I kind of wish he did.

I know this time last week we were guaranteed to be welcoming in a hung parliament. I know the Conservatives now govern us under a majority.

I know the anger and the fury that the outcome of the election has raised in some quarters. But, despite the fact that I did not vote Conservative, I don’t feel this anger or fury. Neither do I feel the desolation or despair of 1992.

Instead, I feel that last week something hugely important happened within politics. Not so much the outcome, but the thought process that led to that outcome.

I know that for many of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, our political affiliations were almost programmed into our DNA, and now this is just not the case. Now, more than ever, we want to think for ourselves.

I cannot predict how I might vote at the next election, let alone how my children might vote in the future. Does this matter? Is this important? Do I have a role to play in helping my kids think through what they think about politics?

I think it does matter. I think it is important. I think I do have a key role. You might disagree. But then, when you think about it, what do you – or any of us – know?

7 thoughts on “Politics: what do you know?

  1. dougstuber says:

    I do know that money buys all votes in congress here in the USA, and that has led to a situation well-described by Mr. Stieglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist that is correct to pont out that three changes in the US tax code since 1980 have caused a better economy, or greater worker productivity, and thus a better economy, to find the wins ALL going to the top 2%, rathe than “lifting all boats” in a high tide of money. The money-rulers have also decided that we needed to start, exacerbate or continue decade-long wars that have multiplied the number of countries brought to ruin by the USA considerably.

    A vote for a Democrat maybe there are four who are still left wingers in the USA) or GOD FORBID a Republican now, is an acknowledgement that you, John Q. Voter, don’t mind this set up.

    True I was he Chair of the Greens here in North Carolina, but must one be labeled a communist and put on the no fly list for 3 years just because one is trying to save the environment, and stands for peace? Indeed, you might even get detained and live through a horrifying interview with the SECRET SERVICE (Michael Moore wrote of my ordeals in “Dude Where’s My Country?”)
    ion which the detail for you everything you’ve done for the past 30 years. Ooops. How long have they kept tabs on me? Why? Isn’t political freedom, free speech and dissent protected anymore? No it’s not. And it doesn’t matter which of our parties holds power: both are the same: complete suck ups to big money. Not sure of this? Take a look at Tony Blair’s record as the Labor PM. HA!


    • authorbengarrido says:

      It couldn’t be well intentioned people voting their consciences in ways you don’t like? What if those evil monied corrupt folks have different values for reasons other than contracts signed with Satan?


  2. authorbengarrido says:

    Great article!

    I grew up right wing, became left wing in my twenties and now I vote for politicians I think can most skillfully manipulate their bases.

    The “things” people believe about politics, I’ve found, matter much less than the “way” people belief about politics. I’d much rather vote for someone who has thoughtful reasons for opposing me than a zealot (or anybody too certain of their righteousness) who agrees with me.

    Thoughtful people learn and adapt, people who are certain of their beliefs usually don’t.


  3. sacredhandscoven says:

    I know that in my family, we were raised to do what “daddy” said to do in regard to elections here in the USA. He was firmly Republican by the time I came along and he raised us to all be Republican, as well. He voted with the other old white men of his generation in order to preserve the status quo for his “type”. I also know that as the youngest of seven children, he was ultimately disappointed in me every time an election rolled around after I left his home because I made no bones about the fact that I “knew” his party was callous and uncaring of the needs of the majority of citizens in our country, back then, just as they are today. Even on his deathbed he was disappointed to have raised one liberal thinking daughter, even though he had successfully brainwashed the other children into his right-wing way of thinking. I completely agree with your quote “we need to start talking to our children now, not about what to think about politics but how to think about politics.”. I have raised my three young men to research the ideals and beliefs of the politicians, not by what they say, but by how they vote. That is the best any parent can do in my opinion. Provide the basis of learning and hope that the children vote their conscience, in the long run.


  4. sabretoothedchickenstour says:

    Nice post. Totally agree that we need to bring up children who are educated and well-rounded enough to recognise what is important, what “first world problems” are and how to see through the spin. In Australia we do have compulsory voting by secret ballot which I 100% agree with. I am constantly amazed how people do not understand that just having the right to vote is a gift. 🙂


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