Reliving 2010: Accepting the UK for what it is
I’ve only been enfranchised for two General Elections and both times I’ve been sorely disappointed.
Getting the Lib Dems into power was always a pipe dream. But we young people were so close the first time around, and we threw our weight behind them with such force – so we, in turn, are a force to be reckoned with, right?
Fast forward five weird years of political push and pull and we get what seems like a second chance. Did we not take that chance or was the chance itself just an illusion? We’re plagued by an unfair voting system that does not represent what the majority wants, and a large section of the population who are too “shy” to admit that they’re voting for people who represent their interests.
I’ve never understood how in a clearly centre-left country – one that values ‘freedom of everything’ including health above all things – we could ever vote in a centre-right party. OK, we’re no France. The UK (or rather, England) is conservative with a small ‘c’, and we like our monarchy, and our PC, and our structured social mobility thank you very much. But I’m not here to preach about how we should all be voting Labour because duh, and how the Conservatives only care about you if you’re rich or old, because duh. I’m here to come to an understanding, to begin my struggle to accept my country for what it is, for what we are.
So what are UK citizens?
We’re superficial. That’s not to say we’re selfish – of course we are, we’re human. But rather, the things that we are selfish about, that we ‘care’ about, are only skin deep. People boast about how they would never vote for Ed Miliband. “He’s no Tony Blair” they croon. Thank God! I’d rather follow the noble ideals of an inarticulate scholar than ride the coattails of a presidential imperialist.
We’re entitled. We’ve not only gotten used to having it all, but we’ve forgotten how we got it and, in some cases, who got it for us. I’m not saying that we should vote in a Labour government every 5 years because they stepped up with the best idea ever in 1945, but we certainly should remember that those ideals still underpin the party’s core values, and some parties that shall not be mentioned strongly objected to a certain policy’s implementation. Leopards and spots. Just sayin’.
We’re ignorant. A referendum on the EU?! 10 points to the first one to use ‘referendum’ correctly in a sentence.
We’re slowly turning into Americans – voting people in and out of government based on their likeability and leadership swag; believing that we can have all the best things without having to pay for them in taxes; believing that we’re better than the rest of the world and slowly isolating ourselves to our detriment; revering rich people and believing that ‘with a little hard work’ any sob story can be overcome and turned into bright future and that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough. All harsh extremes and no reality checks.
So, now I’ve had this epiphany, what next? Do I bail like the entitled, middle-class 90s kid (if you think I’m going to use the ‘m’ word, think again) that I am and move ‘abroad’? Or stick around and hope that enough op-eds by enough prominent figures in enough left-wing magazines will convince parliament to embrace constitutional change?
I don’t want to be bitter. But I also don’t want to be rich. And now there’s no fucking in-between to go to, and I’m bloody well not leaving. So I’m going to have to start making the best of what I can get.
I don’t accept that things will never change. The system doesn’t work against me, after all, it’s just not designed to work for me. It’s not designed to work for most of us, and we should work to change that. That’s what first world democracy is all about, right?
After all, the people of the UK are other things too. We’re pragmatists – we haven’t had a revolution in a good long while, but we recognise when enough is enough, which is why we’ll always be “just ***** of centre”. We’re inherently kind – we can turn a blind eye to stepping over the little guy, but we certainly won’t see him trampled upon. We’re stubborn – once you’ve given us something, you’ll never get it back, and eventually we’ll want a bigger and better version of whatever it is. Maybe we can apply these traits to a system that isn’t necessarily broken, but just doesn’t serve our needs any more.
I accept that the people of the UK are good, if cynical; smart, if disillusioned. We know that corporates run the world, but we have the power to change that, if we accepted that it really would be for the greater good.
But there are other things I will have to come to accept about the UK too. We’re a grand middle-class that is divided on so many sublevels that our fundamental differences only manifest once every five years. We can’t all display the same nationalist, egalitarian zeal as our northernmost brothers. Especially if standing together for the greater good means losing our own self-interest in the mix. Some people are just lucky that self-interest and the greater good happened to align in this instance.
But I can always hope. I hope that the people of the UK will realise their democratic rights extend beyond the ballot box. I hope that they will turn this knowledge into power, and realise that they do have the power to change things. I hope that we don’t just succumb and ‘accept’ things for the way they are, for the way things are is unacceptable.
But failing all that…
I hope I will always be young at heart, so when the plight of the next generation is realised, I will be able to use my privilege – as a member of the class upon which politicians rely so heavily – to obtain for them what I could not obtain for myself.