(Featured image description: A group of anti-Brexit protestors posing for a group selfie. Many of them are white people wearing blue clothing and waving the flag representing the European Union.)
(CN for ableism, ableist slurs, fascism, voter suppression and te*f mentions to support arguments, no detail for last few)
I’m going to start today’s post with a strong assertion – when you are a marginalised person, politics is frustrating. It is definitely the case for me. The reasons why are simple to state, but complex and difficult to elaborate on Many are based on my own personal experiences but also due to recent history. They are:
- Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly
- Most people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith
- Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.
Let’s pick them apart, one at a time:
Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly
Politics as a whole is largely inaccessible to disabled people because political organisations, by and large, do not make their events accessible for all types of disabilities. This includes debates to voting itself. Yet in-person participation is seen as the only “acceptable” form of political participation according to mainstream discourse. If a disabled person can’t access real-life political discourse, then their views are ignored by the mainstream. This is true even though online activism is sometimes the only way people can participate. Some examples include how disabilities like autism and chronic fatigue can stop people from being able to go to events.
This is, of course, an ableist stance to take but I can understand why online discourse is stigmatised to a point. The discourse is toxic and often the bigoted political extremes can be lured out and appear powerful. For example, this is why it is unsafe to be openly trans on Twitter even though the opinions of TE*Fs are not representative of real life. Offline, the discourse is considerably less toxic presumably because of the increased level of accountability somebody has for their actions. You have a real name and a face attached to somebody’s opinions – not an anime avatar and an obvious pseudonym.
From personal experience, I have found political participation to be quite difficult. I can get overwhelmed with debates easily and find them hard to follow, especially in real life. Online discourse is more accessible for me to understand but the toxicity of others affects my conduct. I do want to participate in real life more because it is the only way I will get taken seriously.
For example, recently I went to a local protest concerning the current constitutional crisis facing the UK. I got overwhelmed quite quickly as it was besides a major road and there was nobody I knew there – mainly older people. I struggled to work out the social aspects of everything and soon my anxiety eventually got so bad I had to leave and go home. It all got too much for me.
It’s also worth noting that many marginalised people are also politically homeless because they don’t feel any political party speaks for them. Any marginalised person supporting the UK Tories is figuratively signing their own suicide note for obvious reasons however other parties each have their own drawbacks that turn people off. TE*Fs are an example as there are TE*Fs in the SNP that haven’t been kicked out for instance. Likewise voter suppression is also a popular tactic used against marginalised groups as they are less likely to be able to meet the requirements to vote (such as having voter ID).
Many people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith
If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise about people – especially privileged cishet, abled white people – is that many have strong opinions about subjects they know little about. Furthermore, they will take no steps to listen to other people’s arguments especially from those with lived experience.
In other words, they believe that their view is the correct one and not listen to opposing views. This is fine when it applies to harmless personal preferences like hobbies or sports. However, when it applies to politics this is a problem. This is because harmful ideologies like the gender critical movement and curing autism are innately dangerous and will harm minorities in particular. Hence, they cannot be platformed and it’s therefore important that people listen to others as to why these viewpoints are harmful.
Privileged people will also fall back on arguments like “There are two sides” and “free speech” thinking that they apply here when in reality using these arguments gives permission for bigotry to spread. This is why those with lived experience need to be prioritised when it comes to these issues and privileged people need to sit down, listen then boost our voices. This includes not smearing people with strawmen like “SJW” as this proves they are not engaging in good faith. Or even worse – platforming marginalised people who have internalised their bigoted views than using them to discredit the whole communities fight for rights.
Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.
This is a reason where I am a bit more sympathetic to others. Most people, at least in the UK, do not undergo formal political education in school. This means they lack the skills to see through far-right bullshit and are more likely to become radicalised. This varies from being an “anti-SJW/anti-feminist” to being a full-on Nazi. To a lesser extent, this also applies to being brainwashed by right-wing media to believe false narratives about the political situations in their own or other countries.
This means they have to educate themselves about politics which is where the risks of being radicalised or brainwashed. Many people, especially social media savvy young people, are fortunately seeing through much of it as corporate media is becoming less popular. Many young people go on to study politics courses at school or university whereas other people educate themselves through self-study as I have over the years. Overall, there as hope, especially as young people in particular are becoming more aware of marginalised identities as those people became able to express themselves over the internet.
However, there is still a risk of others, especially older people, remaining attached to harmful beliefs, as well as kids brought up in conservative households or consume fascist media (like with the videos platformed on YouTube’s algorithm). It is these people that primarily push harmful beliefs like gender critical feminism – and on a more political scale – Brexit.
Brexit is a good example to support this example because in 2016 almost nobody in the UK knew enough about the European Union to make an informed vote on whether we should stay or leave. This isn’t a dig at Leavers or Remainers because this applies to everyone. The issue was too complex to be put to a binary referendum in part because it wasn’t well understood how Brexit would affect marginalised groups (which is a result of the first two reasons outlined here). I raise my hand and admit I knew little about the EU back then – even though I did study it as part of a business course in high school.
A lot of people also will not accept that they lack this knowledge. Whenever I’ve said this to people many have said I am calling them stupid when this is not the case. Putting aside why ableist slurs like stupid are harmful and should be eliminated, even people that are considered “smart” can be radicalised. Intelligence doesn’t come into this. It has taken me a long time to process this and understand why this is the case and I am worried that people will read this and think I am talking down to them. So I’m going to try to explain better.
If anything, there are likely two reasons – the first is that people don’t like to admit their opinions and facts are wrong. It’s human nature. Humans like to be right and we hate to have to admit we aren’t. Secondly, this could partially be a result of autistic/NT communication mismatch, where NTs read between the lines and apply their own meanings to what is said even when such meanings aren’t there. This is human nature too and this is before considering cultural differences.
If somebody isn’t a person of colour, disabled, trans, closely involved in certain companies/systems being discussed etc. they won’t have the lived experience to truly understand – which isn’t their fault. None of the reasons why people generally have inaccurate knowledge on politics are the fault of the people unless it’s willful ignorance (ie. “I don’t do politics”) or having to protect themselves for the sake of their mental health. We can’t all be experts at everything – it’s simply not possible.
There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important. This is so most people will become a politics expert by choice and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. Hence, people will make more informed political decisions. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct is not appropriate for these kinds of conversations.
With all this said in mind, this is why politics is frustrating. Change can and must happen, but there are a lot of barriers in the way. There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important so everybody can become a politics expert and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct and/or blunt is not always appropriate for these kinds of conversations.
There isn’t an easy solution to this and sometimes it feels hopeless and despairing. However, one thing that people can do to help to believe the lived experiences of others and boost our views during discussions – as well as share other correct, credible information. On the whole, though, the world is slowly becoming more inclusive and accepting on a variety of fronts especially in Western territories. Hopefully, as time goes by this trend will continue and the far right will lose again.
That’s all for today,
Featured image source