I love elections. My history O level had a whole course on the history of parliament and democracy in the UK, complete with a trip to the Houses of Parliament, and I love the whole shemozzle.
But I also know that politics is one of the most divisive things in the world, with extreme views on either side leading to anger, arguments and a situation where one or other is holding their breath rather than go face to face in a fight.
I’ve seen this most clearly on my Facebook feed, where one party’s opinions have dominated. That’s partly because I live in a part of the country where one party does dominate, and any voter casting their vote for anybody else knows it’s a waste of effort, and so I expect the opinion to be heavily one way.
I think that makes supporters of other parties afraid to post their opinions… especially since to voice them leads to names, charges of stupidity, racism or worse, and to being unfollowed for not holding the party line. And I don’t like that because, whatever else our society is, it is a land of freedom to voice opinions that differ without prejudice, a right to feel safe in saying this or that about a political figure (politely, and with proof if possible) and know that the very people who disagree with us now will still be our neighbours and colleagues and friends… yes, friends… tomorrow.
Having friends and acquaintances from as wide a range of experience and background as possible is absolutely to be encouraged. Living in a cocooned environment, reading only those writers whose thoughts match ours, following only those people whose feeds show the same thing as we are thinking… that leads to a biased view of the world. A feeling of being safe in our own place, without an appreciation of what other people think.
It is only by talking to others from different parties, faiths, backgrounds, social classes etc that we can see what life is like for somebody else. Being able to do that safely, secure in the knowledge that you won’t suffer for it should be one of the best things about the internet, and yet it is so easy to get trolled for saying something that another person deems unsuitable. As if there can only be one way to think. One way to vote.
Pardon me? Isn’t that why my Grandfather fought and died in Italy in 1944? So that there was no ‘one way to vote’? So that, rightly or wrongly, we could vote for ourselves? And, yes, you might not agree with many/any of the policies that ‘the other party’ stand for, but that’s democracy. We get to choose, and sometimes we choose for reasons that other people don’t like or understand. Sometimes it is as simple as not liking the leader. Tough.
People hold different views, and vote for different reasons. Some vote for conscience, some vote for belief, some vote because one party has policies that will benefit them, others just to keep out the other bunch. The reasons why we vote are not as important as the fact we vote. But we can’t let politics define our friendships. We need to mix and meet others to expand our world view. By being able to meet, talk & mix we learn about ourselves, and we can learn that extremism… in any form…. is isolationism.
Today, go and vote. And say hello to everyone there. Be happy that we have freedom to vote. Seek out somebody who has voted differently. Ask them for a coffee. Listen to them explain, without interrupting or savaging them. Engage in reasonable debate (that’s what TV used to do: now we have Unreasonable Slanging Matches and call it debating) and at the end you will still be you, but you’ll have a better understanding of somebody else’s point of view. You’ll feel better for it. And that’s post-election hygge.
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