I Miss My Political Happiness / The Cause of Political Apathy

I Miss My Political Happiness / The Cause of Political Apathy

This post was originally written in Swedish by Johanna Jönsson [Swedish] who shares her personal reflection on political happiness. Johanna is not a Pirate but her ideas can be generically applied to many political parties. 


I don’t really know what happened. Earlier when someone asked me why I spent so much time in politics and the party I answered, without a doubt, that it was the most enjoyable thing there was. That I had found my home. That my personal characteristics were appreciated. That I finally found the possibility to make real change. That feeling I had is mostly gone now and I don’t know how to find back to it.

It’s about three years since I became politically active. I became active because I wanted to meet other people who care about similar things to me and because I, somehow, considered that you lose your right to complain if you do not also act for change. My local chapter had active gatherings with many discussions lacking restrictions. No question was too weird to be responded to with a reasonable reply. No opinion was too strange to not be discussed in a calm and thoughtful way. It was not as if everyone had the same opinions, certainly not, but it felt like we strived in the same direction with the same common departure point. This was between elections and focus was on development of politics and ideas. I loved to twist and turn every discussion and often heard from other people that they appreciated my questioning and my honesty. Then came the proposal for a new party platform and I was suddenly thrown into the field of political strategy and all that it entails.

In hindsight, I have a hard time to honestly defend the way I acted as I did. I, who had always maintained broadly that you have to dare to stand up for your beliefs in all situations, chose to listen to the ones that advised that I should lay low. I still don’t really know if I did it from cowardice or because I believed it was right. It was probably a combination of both. As chairperson for my local chapter I sat through interview after interview, responding in an as meaningless way as possible to  questions about polygamy, abolished compulsory school attendance and the actions of the party leadership. Most often the results of the interviews were so meaningless that they were never published. Right then I fooled myself into believing it was all for the greater good. That the party platform would have a greater chance to be accepted at the general assembly if it was not associated with the local chapter. And we know how well that went. When too few defended the propositions the image of it being whimsical nonsense was unchallenged and deeply set. And even if the assembly adopted a completely acceptable party platform it felt as if the space to challenge and submit innovative proposals has been restricted more for every opinion poll done after that.

From my point of view the party leadership have embraced the calls for more controlls from editorialists and communication strategists too much. Those who seem to believe that a political party consisting of uniformly programmed robots would be the best option. Personally I have never understood that view. A political party is a gathering of people. Persons with different views and values. If it publically seems like the entire party membership constantly have the same opinions, then it only means that some are lying. How can this be desired from a democratic perspective? I can understand that as a voter you want clear alternatives and that this partly is negated by differing opinions from various representatives but this is not reason enough to try and silence the ones that are “uncomfortable”. Rather it is a big reason to question if party politics really is the best alternative. The signals sent from the leadership obviously affects who fits into the party. I have heard about, and also been part of, too many situations where different types of pressure have been used on people to persuade them to fall into line. It requires enormous strength to endure the pressure once your party colleagues turn their back on you. When the support is gone. When you don’t even feel welcome anymore. And if you filter out the ones that refuse to keep quiet because of strategic power reasons it’s easy to figure out who is left. Is this the type of politicians we want to govern us? The ones we believe most fit to adjust politics to a fast development? The ones that will come with the best new ideas? Maybe it is. I don’t know. I know very little right now.

Since we entered the election year it has, on all levels, become increasingly harder to pierce through that surface of political strategy. No ideas are particularly welcome anymore unless they fit into the narrow communication profile chosen to aggregate votes. And along with this I feel that my personal characteristics, which previously were appreciated, have become problematic. At this stage there is no space to discuss and question. Instead it should be communicated. Suddenly I, as a top candidate, have the expectation to discuss what the party has decided is important, instead of the questions I burn for. And reach the ones that currently support another idea in some profile question. As a communicator I can understand this. As a human person I can’t understand it at all. Those who have been in politics some time don’t see it as anything strange at all. That is how it is done in all parties. You know, the rules of the game. But how will it ever change if everyone just adapts? For every debate I see where politicians beat each other with practiced one-liners and meaningless numbers, for every course in rhetoric I attend where we are taught to treat voters as incapable of understanding anything at all, for every media training I participate in where we are drilled to not respond to questions from the journalists, for every debate article I read where the party propaganda need of repetition over-shadows any form of new approach another part of my participation and desire for this dies.

For me these are things I ponder a lot right now. Maybe it’s me who ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe it’s only in my personality to never be satisfied. Maybe I need to learn how to compromise and adapt. Maybe I should leave politics to those who find the actual games more fun. Or I might be just where I should be. And maybe there is more people like me here, even if they right now might be quiet because they have learnt that is the only way to “play the game” and create change. Anyway I know for certain that I must find back my happiness. If it is in politics or somewhere else is less important.

Translated by Josef Ohlsson Collentine from original (slight modifications)
Featured image: CC-BY-NC-ND, Robert S. Digby