I’ll be honest with you, there was a part of me that was a little nervous about sharing my latest post. It was very political, and addressed an issue that I believe is extremely important and serious in Australia (and reflects wider issues worldwide). I do consider myself to be a political person, and by that I mean someone who tries to keep up to date with the current political landscape and raise awareness around important issues that threaten the well being of people. I was nervous to share my last piece as I am aware of how contentious political discussions can be. It is never my intention to offend or upset anyone, so I do choose my words carefully and consider how my work will be read by multiple points of view before I post anything. I am over the moon to share that my political piece Australia in Crisis: Religious Discrimination Bill got the best views and engagement of all of my posts so far, and I am beyond stoked!
But it’s time to get back to business.
Being an Activist is something that is very important to me, and I hope that you can find a place for it in your heart too. To be political is to be human, and I truly believe that to ignore situations where human rights and the freedom to live peacefully is being threatened is to allow pain to be inflicted upon fellow human beings. I know that you would not wish that or want to enact that upon anyone, so it is more important than ever that you stand by your fellow human beings and call for all of our rights to remain protected.
Trust in our democratic political system here in Australia is at a huge low- a low that has not been seen since the 1970’s. From a range of recent surveys completed by the Social Research Institute at Ipsos, it was found that the three biggest grievances people have with politicians here in Australia are:
- They are not accountable for broken promises
- They don’t deal with the issues that really matter
- Big businesses have too much power
On top of that, only 31% of the population reported feeling trust for the federal government.
How abysmal is that?!
A government should exist to serve its people, to support those who are struggling until they are back on their feet, to protect public interests, and to ensure that freedom is afforded to all people.
The disillusionment that is shared by many of us has been amplified in the face of a lack of action on Climate Change, the refusal to call the bushfire smoke choking Sydney anything but ‘haze’, the push to legalise discrimination and maginalisation with the Religious Discrimination Bill, and the absolute cruelty being inflicted upon asylum seekers (who are exercising their legal right to seek asylum) in Nauru and Manus Island, which Amnesty International has described as “tantamount to torture”. This collection of scenarios is a classic example of a system that is failing us, and that is desperate for change.
So what can you do?
Let me be the first to say that you don’t have to paper your house with posters and take every second Friday off of work to protest to be an activist. You can do as much as your life commitments allow, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Here are a few ways that you can engage in the political and social landscape to raise awareness and have your voice heard:
- Put aside half and hour to an hour a week to go online and sign petitions for important issues and things that are dear to your heart. Petitions are an important way to raise issues and force the powers that be to respond.
- Bin the idle chit-chat and talk to your friends and family about important political issues, with care, vigor and compassion. No one likes an angry accusatory rant, and being kind and genuine is far more effective in getting your message across.
- Join a political party. You don’t have to go to every meeting or do much at all really, its totally up to you with how much you engage. I joined the Greens after this most recent election and have done a bit of volunteering with their newsletter, and have learned a lot more about their stance on policy and change. Again, it feels better to be doing something rather than doing nothing.
- Share interesting articles, blog posts and even funny, topical political memes. Be a part of the dialogue in sharing important, factual information and help raise a wider awareness in the community.
- Do your darnedest to thoroughly understand the importance of being politically engaged, and be aware of the fact that it is a great privilege to be able to do so. I feel potently about this as a woman, because the Suffragettes, our ancestors and many women before us risked and even lost their lives in the fight to secure us the right to vote. Voting is a freedom and a privilege, and to squander it is to disrespect the thousands of people who fought tooth and nail, and lost absolutely everything to allow us this freedom. I ask you to see the ability to be politically active as a privilege. I also ask you to understand that to say “I’m not that interested in politics” or “I’d rather not get involved” is within itself an example of privilege. Changes to the political landscape, economy and policy effect the most marginalised people in society the most. Those that live in poverty, are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women feel the deepest most painful effects of many restrictive policies. If you don’t fall within the groups of people who are directly effected by outdated welfare payments, the privatisation of public medical services that restrict a woman’s right to access contraception, racial discrimination and so forth, you still must stand up and stand beside these people. I am sure you would wish for the same support if your own rights were being eroded too.
- If you think that you aren’t political, I can assure you that you already are. You are political every time that you vote. You are engaging in politics every time you share an unpopular opinion that, if you were in another country, you could be arrested or even killed for. By exercising your freedom to question any powers that be, you are exercising a political right. We are all innately political.
Remember that doing a little is better than doing nothing, and you are so much more powerful than you think. There’s a little activist in all of us, and now is the time to let it out.