There’s a song by Skunk Anansie called Yes, It’s Fucking Political. I don’t it hear often, but I’m hearing right now. When I first heard it several years ago, I don’t think I really understood it. “Yes, it’s fucking political! / Everything’s political!” Seemed kind of vague. I only really understood it a few months ago, reading an interview in unerzogen magazin with a couple who decided not to tell anyone outside the family about their young child’s biological gender. The point was made there with incredible clarity, and I’d like to argue it here.
But before I get to my main point, I’m going to start with the arguments that I think should be made in favor of staying out of politics.1 Why should you bother to be political? Politics is dirty, filthy! It corrupts everyone who does it professionally, even the most ideological politician ends up going against their beliefs. And what’s worse, we simple citizens can’t really do anything about it, because parties will only push agendas bought and paid for by their donors, and the rest of us can’t afford to get our agenda on the table. And who can even handle dealing with all the bad stuff going on? That kind of worrying can make you go crazy.
All of this, and more, is basically true.
But that’s beside the point. The point is that you don’t have any choice. You’re political, and it’s only a question of what cause you’re fighting for.
The reason is surprisingly simple: if you’re not consciously political, or if you’re consciously “neutral”, you’re simply doing your best to make sure nothing at all changes. The reality we live in is made up of a billion tiny choices people make every day. It’s practically impossible to make yourself aware of all of them. If you don’t try to understand the implications of your actions, you’re making a whole lot of choices in favor of the status quo.
Let’s say you’re a normal guy who doesn’t really like feminism. You believe that men and women should basically have the same rights, of course, but you don’t see what all the fuss is about. You’re probably oppressing women in subtle ways that are difficult to understand simply by the way you talk to and about them, even if the last thing you mean to do is oppress them.
Let’s say you’re like me (and most people in the Western world) and get your food from some supermarket, which is cheap enough for your budget but not so cheap you feel poor shopping there. Every time you buy food, you take home probably a dozen items wrapped in plastic of some kind. Each of those pieces of plastic, which you throw away without giving it a second thought, will outlive your grandchildren’s grandchildren. At some point in the next centuries, you can safely assume that at least one animal somewhere (maybe a small ugly one that nobody was going to eat, if you’re lucky) will almost definitely choke to death on it, or die because it blocked its digestion, or whatever.
These are just two tiny examples, and I’m wildly oversimplifying. Your individual action is tiny and almost meaningless. But with almost half the population slightly objectifying and oppressing women, you end up with a situation where a woman has to be really brave to speak out publicly about certain topics she believes in. And with billions of people throwing away a dozen pieces of plastic a week you end up with a whole island made of plastic, bigger than many countries, and growing all of the time.
These things affect your life, and you take part in making them happen, whether you like it or not. Practically every single detail of your life is affected by the tiny choices a lot of simple people make, taken together over time. Yes, it’s way too complicated to ever understand entirely. Yes, the chances of a single activist, you or me or even someone famous, really changing something, are close to zero. But we’re all, always activists for the status quo, and don’t you think it’s a little hypocritical to complain about things while you’re working so hard to keep them the same?
- Keep in mind this all applies to modern, Western-style representative democracies; the situation elsewhere is similar, but still very different. [↩]