Dirty“ NO! I could never go into politics. There’s something nasty about it. Politics is kind of….you know, dirty, grimy, low, undignified.” was the response I got when I asked a friend if they would consider joining Vasemmisto.
The person in question would be perfect candidate material. High moral value, intelligent and raised, like myself, in a trade union family. This person has been totally turned off by the way modern politics is conducted, like two drunks fighting outside a liquor store at lunchtime. Actually come to think about it some Finns Party members of parliament are close to that level already.
Finland has so far resisted the worst of the sectarianism seen in the rest of Europe but I have every confidence that we will get there eventually. This adverse reaction to engage in politics has always prevailed in society but in recent decades as inequality widens, this feeling has become more acute.
Who would blame them. Look at our world today. America is run by brazen corrupt globalists giving an amateur theatre performance of ‘all the President’s men’, Britain is run by masochistic, racist, back stabbing clowns and places like the Philippines where the President actually encourages and engages in murderous vigilante attacks on anyone who has been accused of any transgression. Adding insult to injustice, these bunch of incompetent crooks for most part herald from the richer end of society and seem to go out of heir way to make those nation’s poor, poorer. The political narrative is so divided between resentful right wing nationalists and angry Noam Chomsky-ites, that a normal, well meaning, perfectly suitable person wishing to make a difference would simply turn around and walk away. And many indeed have.
This absence of diversity leaves us with sub-standard choices on election day leading to a yet wider divisions and even less belief in the system. And so the cycle of inequality continues.
We self flagellate while somehow imagine the whip hand as someone else.
How it works
In Finland, at local level we have the City managers or Mayors and the members of Parliament who are the political professionals. Then we have the councillors and committee members. These are not taken from professional political stock but from the general public. This last part is important. The wider the range of local voices in this section, the better the decisions that are made for the district. In theory. Any councillor or election candidate can be appointed to a committee for a four year term.
This system has proven to be the most effective democratic decision making process. And is used all over the world. Providing people want to engage.
Last December when I decided to get involved in politics, money was a topic brought up by my friends. When people ask me what the pay is like, a genuine anger would come over them when I explained that at city level, apart from committee meeting payments, I do it all for free.
‘Huh I wouldn’t do that for free.’
‘Well yes’ my reply would go ‘that’s why we are all properly f&#ked isn’t. If we don’t do it, the lawyers and the self interested businessmen will fill that space, they can afford a bit of pro bono work, especially if they can gain something from it. The whole idea is about community, not self improvement.’
I do find it irritating when I hear people continuously moaning about their representatives and the system only to scoff at the idea of doing something about it themselves. My home country of Ireland is particularly bad for this attitude.
I can’t help wondering if the problem is due in part to our expectant ‘Automatic’ lifestyle. Doors open for us, navigators tell us where to go, security updates happen in the background, even rolls of paper in toilets willingly sacrifice a piece of themselves without any effort from us. Could this be just an extension of that? That paying taxes is enough and everything else, a functioning community, services, equality and judicious use of public money just happens, somehow, in the background.
How do we reverse this trend and get people to care?
This is certainly tied to voter turn out. People will not vote in the absence of choice. We could certainly make an effort to make our decision making more appealing by taking as much of the process out of the small offices and onto the streets. Vasemmisto central Finland has a full summer event calendar and is doing just that.
Hate it if you wish but accept it you must, understand that we live in a world of celebrity and of pacifying media. More video content and graphics explaining how everything works is needed. Show how ‘civilians’ make a lot of the decision making and how it all falls to pieces if it is not maintained by us, the decent people. More relatable personal stories should be told about why people get involved. Almost everyone has a different reason.
If we are reinvent a more decent politick, this must all of this must be done in a positive, inspirational way, with just a tiny splash of guilt.
Of course being a foreigner, I am putting some effort into getting others like me to engage more, in fact as I finish this piece I have decided to produce some info-graphics about how the general public helps the way society and its laws are shaped.
In the end, like it or not, the government and the councils are a reflection of our collective selves, be it by values or by simply being too lazy or too dispossessed to bother voting.
I really would prefer to have people come together before we are compelled to, after some disaster or great injustice forcing our hands.
I would love it if people woke up one morning and suddenly remembered why Trade unions helped workers as well as the economy at large. That people would come to realise that we are not all middle class, we are, for most part, working class in breathtaking amounts of personal debt.
And that the reason why politics seems so grubby is because we have stopped engaging in the process and decided to stand on the distant sidelines and randomly scream into the void.
While we wait for that to happen, lets do what we can now.