I’m eighteen and I can vote. If you’d asked me last year what I was more excited about, the alcohol or the polling station, I’d have voted the latter. Now, I’d rather drown myself in whiskey and set myself alight than face that piece of paper: Conservative, Labour, or Lib Dem.
We’re living in a dictatorship, trapped by a voting system that could have saved even Hitler if only he’d had the sense to pretend. To pretend there was a hope for his people; to pretend they could choose. To quote John Locke on human freedom: ‘Suppose a man be carried, whilst fast asleep, into a room where is a person he longs to see and speak with; and be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get out: he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in, i.e. prefers his stay to going away. I ask, is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt it: and yet, being locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom to be gone.’ We, the electorate, have the illusion of choice. We believe that a vote for the Tories is a vote for the upper classes and a vote for Labour, the lower classes. We evidence this assertion with clichés and statistics: 200,000 children forced into poverty by benefit cuts whilst the wealthiest 2% receive a £3bn tax cut (that’s a Tory policy, by the way, identifiable by key words such as ‘wealth’, ‘tax cut’ and ‘child poverty’.)
Yet is there a palpable difference between the two? Had we access to a parallel universe in which Labour won the 2010 election, perhaps there would be evidence of their promised living wage and tax cuts (a couple more key terms for you there- you may recognise the latter from somewhere…) But we don’t. All we see is crisis after crisis, created and fixed by interchangeable parties, arbitrarily cheered and booed and defended by their respective voters. I hate the Tories because I’ve been taught to, but neither am I enthralled by Labour’s push for a flexible fiscal policy which seems like just another phrase for Osbourne’s ‘rolling target for the deficit.’
So what does it mean- this disillusionment? Is it an awakening? The beginning of change?
Well no, actually. Because as a sixth form student faced with long figures and long words that I don’t understand, I have two options. The first is to decipher what they mean. Yet it will be difficult to do so without first accepting that they do mean something, after all. Politics is not like philosophy, where one can understand the attributes of God without believing in him. Politics is politics. To enter is to be within God himself; you must have faith to explore. You have to choose, you have to declare yourself: ‘I’m a Tory’ or ‘I’m a Communist’ or ‘I vote Green.’ You have to swallow the theory and fall on a side. A Wittgensteinian Language Game, politics exists on its own terms and these terms have meaning only within the game.
The other option is to oppose it. To attack it as meaningless; a fideist science. Yet to do so would be seen as ignorance: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ It would be to rid oneself of all credibility.
It would be no more constructive than giving up.