Your Country Needs You! (At least once every five years…)

What is Voting?
Voting is important.

I know: controversial opening line, that. But voting truly is very, very important. Only through the vote can you reliably tell any given government or political organisation what you think of them. Of course, this then opens a whole bag of worms about things like tactical voting, issue led voting and national vs. regional voting but stay with me, there may be cake… Or something.

Young people do not vote enough, people who are 16 now should be able to vote in 2015, people who are twenty now would have been just too young to vote in 2010, so should vote in 2015.  Everyone between 16-20 years old will be able to and should vote.

Q: So, start with basic principles; what is a vote within the context of the UK?
A: The UK runs on a first past the post system. To explain this, a vote is you spitting into your favourite bucket out of a range provided to you. Once everyone has finished spitting, the bucket with the most phlegm inside it is taken away and put in the House of Commons to represent you as an MP. The party with the most full spit buckets wins the election and gets to lead the country. When no single party has enough buckets of spit to be outnumber the other party’s spit buckets, two parties can come together and work as a coalition, combining their spit into a single lake of bodily fluids. As can be expected, often the smaller of the two parties becomes diffused and diluted in the larger party.

Not that I’m saying that MPs are buckets of phlegm you understand. MPs are generally speaking hard working, dedicated and passionate individuals driven by a concern about the issues affecting the country and their community, taking action to represent those without voices. Though I would, in all honesty, probably compare a few MPs (past and present) unfavourably to buckets of phlegm.

Q: So why should I vote? I mean, spit in a bucket?
A: We’re getting side tracked here. Let’s forget the bucket metaphor. Instead, let’s talk about the virtues of voting. The obvious one is that it’s civic duty. People have fought and died to protect and enshrine democracy in this country; when you stand at the ballet box with the stubby little pencil in your hand you stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before you. I’ve previously spoken of one of them (Emily Davison) but there are so many more beyond number. From the veterans of the Second World War through to the Levelers of the English Revolution, generation after generation has struggled to reach this point.

If that doesn’t strike your fancy try this argument on for size; Its in your own interests to vote. It’s against your interests not to vote. You may feel that politicians do not care about you and do not care about your opinions. This is true, I won’t lie to you – but I will tell you why. The largest number of people who vote are people aged 40 or over. They vote now because they voted when they were young and they kept voting. Haven’t you ever wondered why pensions are almost always protected? How Social Security (not benefits, I’ll never call them benefits, but that’s for another day) always favours the older voter, and not young people?

This isn’t because politicians don’t like you, it’s that you’re not good customers. Imagine you were running a coffee shop. The vast majority of your customers are old people who like traditional milky coffee, watery hot chocolate or pots of tea. You know that young people want frothy frappucino fruit-based frosty drinks, flavoured with futuristic fast freeze chemicals. But young people haven’t come to your coffee shop for a while. Old people wouldn’t drink the stuff young people want, but young people aren’t interested in the stuff old people want. If you know that mainly old people will come to your shop, it’s not worth putting out the  frothy frappucino fruit-based frosty drinks, flavoured with futuristic fast freeze chemicals. So young people have to put up with tea and cake that hasn’t changed in thirty years. The only way that the coffee shop will change its menu is if it has a reason to, only young people, only you can make them change.

Q: But none of the big parties appeals to me, maaan. They’re all like, ‘The Man’ maaan. Who do I vote for, maaan?
A: You see, it’s questions like this that make me want to break stuff. We’re talking country running stuff here, we’re talking grown up games. Voting can be the difference between having an NHS or having Private Health Insurance. Voting can be the difference between going to war or not going to war. Voting can be the difference between immigrant rights or restrictions on immigration.

Voting. Matters.

The big parties are like premier league teams, the smaller parties (like the Greens) are like Division Two. At best. There is no way in the electoral math that the Liberal Democrats could have won a victory in 2010, but they were still important. They were like, Division One, though they’ve since moved up to the Premier League.

You may not agree with either of the main parties in everything they do. I don’t expect you to, because I certainly don’t (and I’m pretty damned Tribal to boot). But the big parties; the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the (not so liberal) Liberal (aren’t really) Democrats are the ones who will win in a given election. One of them will win, this is just the current laws of political physics in the UK. But let’s say you don’t actually support any one of those parties, which is perfectly understandable. So who do you vote for?

Well, there are two things to bear in mind. The first one is who do you most agree with of the big three. Do some reading, do some listening, turn on the news occasionally. You’ll get the gist of what the parties are, what they want and how they go about things. The decision to make at that point is which one, if you had to, would you rather see running the country? I’ll do a post later in the week or next week about the different parties that is as basic and uncomplicated as possible. I will also talk to people from each of the parties, or who support those parties, for a warts and all look at the party they work with. At the end of the day principles are respectable but when your vote helps to decide whether or not people get benefits its important you think hard about whether or not you can afford not to vote.

Q: I don’t want to vote for any of the big parties though! You can’t make me!/I know that the big party I want to vote for will win without me!/I know that the party I don’t want to win will win anyway! What do I do?
Ok, this is the biggest question. This is also the hardest question. Balls.

Ok, strap yourself in, this might be a bit difficult to explain. It’s called tactical voting.

1. You are a Conservative voter in a Labour area. A lot of people around you will vote Labour, but some will vote Liberal Democrats, you don’t like the Liberal Democrats, but you hate Labour. So you vote for the party you hate less.
2. You would be a Labour voter in an area where everyone votes Labour, Labour are going to win. But Labour aren’t good enough with the environment in your mind: you should vote Green, to show that people in the area care about the environment so that Labour knows if they want to win your vote next time, they need to be more Green.
3. You don’t want to vote for any of the big parties. That’s cool, pick a minor party that you hope people will pay attention to and vote for them. Hate the EU? Vote UKIP. Hate the Capitalist Pigs? Vote for the Socialist Worker’s Party. Although bear in mind that in the reality of British politics, you are essentially choosing option 4.
4. Turn up, eat your ballet or drawn a rude picture on it. Then put it in the box. Even if you don’t care, just vote.

I think I’ve got the handle on what you’re talking about at this point…
Do you? That’s good! I tend to lose track.

If you have any further questions, oh reader, please feel free to message me, to reply to this post or to ask me in person, I’d be happy to explain anything.

Because I’m a masochist.

Advertisements

Emily Davison, why she mattered and why she still matters.

I wrote on this topic on the centenary of her death, for the sake of avoiding self plagiarism, this is what I wrote; 

 

“100 years ago today, Emily Davison died of injuries sustained whilst taking direct political action. I would not say that she died well, nor peacefully; Emily Davison was never one to accept or surrender herself or her tremendous willpower to anyone or anything and I firmly believe that she would have fought for life until the very end. A firebrand and an inspirational figure, Emily Davison was larger than her life and a century later her works are remembered. Emily Davison did not fight to make women the equal of men – women have ever been the equal of men. Rather, Emily Davison fought that this basic and fundamental truth be recognised by law and society. At this point it would be pleasing to think that she died victorious, that her battle was won as women slowly, by inches, gained equality to men at the ballot box over the following years.

Sadly, this would be wrong.

In this country, one hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, women earn less money than men, have lower career expectations than men and are told to set their aspirations lower. It is not some giant man in the sky mandating this, but rather every man who sits on an employment board, every teacher who tells the girls in her class that there are certain things girls do and certain things that boys do. 

In this country, one hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, 10600 women reported that they had been subjected to domestic abuse to the Citizens Advice Bureau. The sickening fact is that this figure is a 40% decrease on eight years ago. Even when the numbers fall, they are still too many. One woman unsafe in her own home is one woman too many, 10600 women unsafe in their own homes is a tragedy and a shame that we should never forget. To reinforce the point, these were the women who felt brave enough to seek help. We owe it to them to remember and to fight for those women who do not have that luxury. The projected yearly numbers for women and girls who have faced violent assault in the UK is a heart rending and gut-wrenching 1,200,000. By the same statistics, every year around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted, 60,000 are raped and thousands more are harassed and stalked in their day to day lives.

In this country, one hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, institutionalised components of our mainstream media display naked pictures of women on the second page of their tabloid papers. Women are told how to look, how to dress, how to speak and how to behave by magazines that scream from the covers, television programmes that shriek and clamour and badly written books of sadomasochistic porn masquerading as a ‘romance’ novel. Individuality is frowned upon, individuality is snarled and spat at as every one of us in this society unconsciously enforces this.

In this country, one hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, some women face a daily struggle almost too horrific to think about. According to FORWARD, 66,000 women in the UK have undergone brutal mutilation of their genitalia, with almost 10,000 young girls at risk at this very moment of experiencing the same mutilation. As of May of this year, the Crown Prosecution Service has yet to bring any justice upon the perpetrators of this most horrific crime against some of the most vulnerable women in our country.

In this country, one hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, ‘lad culture’ is used as an excuse for perpetuating the oxygen that feeds the fires of sexism and misogyny. I am as guilty as any of having a roving, wicked and occasionally cruel sense of humour, but I know that my words have consequence, so they are used lightly. Yet we see people cast these words as though they were confetti. We can and must do better, for the sake of the beaten women, for the sake of the murdered women, for the sake of the mutilated women, we must do better. 

It’s been a century since Emily Davison died, a hundred years of progress, yet that progress has been slow and painful. Feminism has, for some, become a dirty word. Second wave feminists have taken up arms against trans-women (amongst the most vulnerable human beings in the world) in the name of some idealized and perfected image of what it is to be a ‘woman’ in the ‘struggle’. Feminists who agree in the cause of equality take to arguing amongst themselves with each side declaring the other ‘too radical’ or ‘too conservative’, not seeing that in the pursuit of equality they have more in common than anything else.

One hundred years since Emily Davison died, and it seems that we have another hundred years of work ahead of us.”

But on reflection, this was too defeatist of me. 

It needn’t take a hundred years. There are many things we can do to bring that future closer. We can educate women, we can emancipate women and we can grant women full control of their reproductive cycle. We can empower women, we can ensure that once a door is opened to women, it is never again closed, we can enshrine in law the protections of women’s rights that are so often attacked by those who harken back to a golden age that never existed.

We can educate men, we can illuminate men as to their misconception. We can ensure that no girl is taught that pink is the colour she must like, that no boy is told that anything less than blue trainers is wrong. We can work to, if not shatter, understand the unconscious restrictions we place upon children to conform to a gender stereotype that is ultimately harmful. Not every boy must be rough and tumble, not every girl must be sweet and gentle. A naked woman in the Sun isn’t ’empowered’, she’s comodificated into something that can be used to sell more papers.

We must forsake received wisdom because there is nothing wise in received wisdom. We must break down the barriers that people on all sides erect. Feminism isn’t exclusively a women’s issue. It’s a people issue, every father of a daughter, every son of a mother every brother of a sister is implicitly linked to the feminist cause. It is a social good that women are empowered to be strong, to lead industry, to create jobs and be the best scientists, doctors, policemen and politicians we’ve seen. Equality for women doesn’t bring men down, it lifts us all up.

Emily Davison lead the charge for women’s equality at a time when few men could comprehend it. We’re past that now, its time we all started marching in step.

Because I might as well do this properly.

I have been told, for the past few months by several different people, to blog. So this first post is addressing you, you strange, masochistic people. I’ve done it, the things I know will go here rather on social media where it can irritate, annoy and wind up people who would far rather be not-working or looking at pictures of cats than having to slog through gods know how many paragraphs of choleric rambling and rantings on their facebook page.

I suppose this is a kindness, though how much of a kindness it is I’m not certain yet. I suppose we’ll find out in the wash, as they say.

They also say that you should ‘write what you know’. So in that vein, I will write what I know. Which, in the grand scheme of reality (being a universe that is 93,000,000,000 light years across as far as we can see, which probably isn’t very far at all considering that we’re a bunch of monkeys barely past the public nudity phase of our evolution) doesn’t amount to much. But it does amount to some things, and these are the things I will write about.

Yet whilst I know that sand and sandwhiches (despite their similarity in wording) are not equally edible, I will try to avoid talking too much on such topics. 

Instead, I’ll write about the things that I know matter. Equality, liberty, fraternity, the essential goodness of mankind and the reasons that people should become angry and motivated. You may not always agree with me, and I could well be talking to myself, but speaking is better than staying silent even if you’re only talking to yourself.

So Thom, Laura, Tabz, Suzanne, Tabz, Emily, Daniel and Sarah, you brought this on yourselves.