Thursday, 18 June 2015

Humanity in Politics

When approaching any debate, people will often judge you for speaking about a topic ‘emotionally’, and this has always confused me. On The Big Questions last weekend, a man in favour of nuclear weapons criticised his opponent for speaking ‘emotionally’ about the topic, but surely this is necessary. Once we take emotion out of a debate, what are we left with? Politics and Big Business has become a chaotic intertwined establishment, failing to meet the needs of all people.We have become insensitive, trapped in a bureaucratic machine that does not consider the consequences of policies implemented, on the lives of the very people targeted. Over time we become more empathetic. Yet I find compassion and empathy, two traits so intrinsic to being human absent in the very institutions they’re needed most.

The reason why many young people are disillusioned by politics is lack of representation.  To solve or offer a solution to any issue faced by the most vulnerable in our society, it is essential to first understand  the causes of the problem and how it affects members of the community. The Conservative government cannot do this. In 2014, 54% of Tory MPs were privately educated. Yet David Cameron ( a lineal descendant of King William XV) , who was privately educated ( surprising ) said in February this year that he will cut funding on schools by 10%, is this how he repays the people who voted for him?  In 2005, shortly after becoming leader of the party, Cameron said: "We will change the way we look. Nine out of ten Conservative MPs are white men. We need to change the scandalous under representation of women in the Conservative party and we will do that." The representation of women in the party has barely improved (in the 2010 election, the party had 46 female MPs, and 256 male). I’m going slightly off track, but the point is the conservatives are failing to provide for all members of society, not out of malice, but because they simply do not understand the people they are supposed to help.

 Not only this, but there are few attempts to go into communities on an individual level to discuss problems with people, human to human on how best to help. The over reliance on data leads to unhelpful assumptions by politicians who have never once experienced any of the problems they’re trying to solve.  It is dangerous to make policies based on data; it relies on the ridiculous notion that all people are the same. It forces policy makers to see these people as numbers on a sheet, rather than human beings who are complex and deserve to be treated as such. For example, when looking at the rate of teenage pregnancy, we should look to the words of David Brooks, "A pregnancy...isn't just a piece of data in a set. It came about after a unique blend of longings and experiences. Maybe a young woman just wanted to feel like an adult; maybe she had some desire for arduous love, maybe she was just absent-minded, or loved danger, or couldn't resist her boyfriend, or saw no possible upside for her future anyway. In each case the ingredients will be different. Only careful case-by-case storytelling can uncover and respect the delirious iconoclasm of how life is actually lived".  Politicians have a duty to go into these communities and learn about social issues such as teenage pregnancy, rather than middle aged men guessing at the causes (which often ignores the role of the teenage boy, and leads to the penalisation of young girls). 

In order to make significant change in politics that helps all members of society we need to revolutionise the whole system, not simply evolve what already exists. Before the industrial revolution, no such bureaucracy existed as only people on local levels had the information needed to provide for their people – and it worked. The centralised planning system cannot recognise individuals for who they are, politics has lost its humanity. Capitalism places monetary value over human value, and distributes wealth unequally. We need to return to a moral centre which underpins political and financial structures. Find your humanity! Embrace your emotions and use compassion to effect change.