I like Russell Brand and I can understand why a lot of people are sharing the video of his recent interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight. He’s voicing a feeling of alienation from the political process in his country that I’ve heard a lot of my friends express in regards to politics in this country. I’m not attacking Russell or any of my friends who feel frustrated with politicians. I do want to say though, that some of these anti-political complaints and arguments are really simplified and in some cases ignorant – and this oversimplification is really starting to annoy me.
One of Russell’s main points is that he grew up as part of a social underclass that’s being ignored by politicians and not having it’s needs met. He says he doesn’t vote because voting to him is a sign of complicity with a system that he sees as being fundamentally flawed. He, like a lot of Australians, thinks that, on the whole, politicians are useless and voting is useless because nothing ever changes.
That’s just not true: Reality check – Our existence, in a society, is held together by a huge interrelated web of systems. We learn at schools, we drive on roads, get treated in hospitals and have a right to legal representation thanks to government money provided by the taxes we pay in the jobs that are affected by labor and trade laws within an economy which is impacted on, partly, by the decisions of politicians. We get to live in houses because banks allow us mortgages. We get subsidised aged care and child care. We have fire fighters, search and rescue and police provided for us. The list is endless. If you live in a first world country you are living within, and benefitting from a huge collection of interrelated systems which are governed by politicians at a local, state and federal level.
How all these systems are weighted and run changes depending on who’s in power. If you’ve got a conservative government you’re more likely to see legislation put in place to encourage foreign investment, support bi-lateral trade agreements, support business and reduce planning approval costs for things like coal mines. If you’ve got a left wing government in you’re more likely to see extra money being spent on social infrastructure and welfare, on healthcare and community support programs.
Things aren’t perfect. There’s plenty of corruption. There’s plenty of bad decisions made and crappy politicians. But to say you don’t vote because politicians are useless and nothing ever changes is just naive. It might be easier to hold that belief and throw around vague slogans about saving the environment and helping the poor. But I think the best way to create a better world is to work with what we’ve got, break through the apathy, and do everything we can to support politicians who are less likely to destroy the environment and screw over the poor.