Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lessons From History

I have spent a lot of time recently wondering why exactly I bother keeping a blog, particularly a blog expressing my political views. I blame this on a post on Smash the Machine that I have alluded to on an earlier post. Ever since the questions that it posed have been going around my head again and again. Why do I write this blog? Why do I preach to the converted? What do I gain out of inciting right-wing bloggers? What is the purpose of my site?

The truth is I don't really know. Is it just an elaborate way to waste time? Sometimes it feels that way. I am not sure I can ever provide an answer to these questions that would satisfy me. I do try to justify the existence of this site on many occasions. One particular reason always comes back to me. I always remember, back at school, studying for my A-Level in History. I loved History at school, I know that is not a cool thing to say but, well, it's true. I remember one particular lesson above all others. We were studying the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany and their brave stance against the regime. I was fascinated by this group of students who had the courage to stand up and say no to Hitler, they were true heroes. During a discussion about their amazing bravery my History teacher turned to each one of us in turn and asked us 'Would you have stood up to Hitler?'. Each one of my fellow students said no, they could not imagine standing up to his vile regime. Then my turn came. I said 'Yes, I would'. My friends could not believe the breathtaking naivete they had just witnessed. There is no way anyone would say anything so ridiculous as that. But I had. I felt a little embarrassed, but I stuck to my guns. Suffice it to say, I was a figure of fun for sometime afterwards.

Now I admit, I was incredibly naive on this issue. I was 17, did I really believe that I would put myself in a situation that would likely result in my execution? Probably not. But it felt good to believe that I would. And believe me, at the age of 17 I needed to make myself feel good, no-one was about to do it for me. I think this was the point where things began to change for me. Up until that point I had some interest in politics, a friend and I even developed a manifesto that combined the elements we liked in the Conservative and Green parties. I know, strange combination (unless you are Dave Cameron of course!), I think we called it the Consereen party (shit name, shit politics!!). However, as I moved to university to study English Literature and History, I developed a slightly more left-wing viewpoint. Well, actually I was a committed Marxist for some time, so maybe more than slightly left-wing! I became increasingly aware of racism, sexism and equality and a strong belief in what is right and wrong. This carried me throughout uni and I was subsequently dubbed with the nickname PC (as in Politically Correct - a term I really hate as you know).

When I left uni and returned home, my views caused some problems. I became very argumentative on the things I believed in. Suddenly I was no longer scared to voice an opinion. To stand up and say no, despite the peer pressure. I joined Amnesty International and began to espouse my political views at every opportunity, usually in contrast to the views of the people I was with. As time has gone on I have become more and more confident to stand up and let my views be known, whether they are popular or not. This blog seemed like the next logical step to explaining my beliefs and trying to get some truth out there.

However, in these times it is getting ever more difficult to stand up and say no. The media is setting an agenda that does not make me feel entirely comfortable. There is a plethora of right-wing bloggers who are dominating the debate, shouting down those who dare to disagree. The printed press is failing to scrutinise world politics and presenting a one-sided view of the impact that politicians and corporations are having on the world. There is a lack of will amongst the political elite to stand up and be counted. Everyone is fighting for the same ground. The Conservatives and Labour are (despite what they may have you believe) separated by a cigarette paper in terms of policy. It is very difficult to stand up to these forces. The only politicians who do represent a different view from the mainstream (by that I mean right-wing dominated agenda) are nothing more than opportunists. They do not really believe what they espouse, they are riding on the crest of someone else's wave (see Galloway). This makes it increasingly difficult for the general public. The majority of the electorate rely on the media and politicians to tell it how it is. If this is not the case, how can we call this a democracy? You cannot make a sensible choice if you do not know what the consequences will be of that choice. I can never blame the general public for the people they elect, what choice do you have when the media and the establishment stack the odds against you?

So I suppose that is my answer. I know I am not going to change the world. I am not even going to change one person's opinion. I know that the only people who will bother to read this are those who have some sympathy for my beliefs. So I can only conclude that I am doing this for purely selfish reasons. To make me feel better and to satisfy the naivete of my youth. And all because I made one stupid comment in History class.