Here in the UK, we have a democracy that means every 5 years you get to make 1 suggestion about who should represent you, in a first past the post system that means the person elected doesn’t have (usually) the support of more than 50% of the people electing them. My MP just got in with 45% of the vote, 76% of people having voted. Less than half of three quarters. That’s three eighths of those who could have voted supporting him.
Once elected, politicians do not, for the greater part, represent the will of the people. They have their own agenda, and increasingly around the world what we’re seeing is politics run for the benefit of big business and the affluent, at the expense of the majority, pretty much regardless of public will.
So, show up when you can and vote, because it’s the best formal system we have, and gods help us if we lose it, because that’s the thin line of defence regular people have against exploitation. But don’t count on it to save you. Democracy works better when people get more involved – with parties (which may increase your say in policy, candidate choice and general direction) with local politics where there are real choices to make that affect your life. But don’t expect that to work miracles either because you are still inside the system, and the system is not geared to your benefit.
If you want radical change, if you want social justice, sustainable living, the tackling of pollution, climate change and all the other big issues our politicians are in denial about, there is no point waiting for politics to lead the way. It won’t. Politics panders to money, and every now and then makes token gestures based on what it thinks voters want to hear. If you want some token gestures in the direction of radical change, you have to make a LOT of noise just to get a bit of greenwash and window dressing.
Do not wait for politics. Live your values, be the change. Reach out to other people who are doing things you believe in. Take as much control of your life as you can, and be prepared to rethink everything. Climate change is coming. Peak oil is coming (some people think we’ve hit it already) our society is not sustainable. We know what happens when cultures damage or destroy the resources they depend on or are hit by radical change. We’ve got ruins around the world from ancient cultures that did just that. I’m sure the people who made the Nazca lines and the Aztec cities thought they were too clever, too big, too important to fail as well. We know what hubris gets us.
What you can do will depend on where you are, what resources there are, what the likely challenges are going to be (or if you’re in Australia, or California, the challenge of severe drought is already evident). Learn, and keep learning. Learn skills. Learn about local resources. Find out who else is thinking the same way and connect with them because local communities are more survivable, more sustainable than lone individuals. Put something good into the world – whatever you can, whatever makes sense where you are. We are more than our governments.