opinion

Why We Don't Need an Election to Define Us

By Cynthia Mbuthia | Monday 22nd May, 2017

So you’ve seen astonishing volumes of election opinions; from technical ‘experts’ to grime legends, ex-school friends to strangers all rallying up to register for an election that’s been dramatised in true British fashion. If you’re a bit like me, you’re feeling just a little bit cynical, slightly scared and mostly overwhelmed by it all.

I promise I’m not here to talk red or blue (or orange). And I’m definitely not here writing another think-piece on our ‘millennial youth’; self-obsessed, selfie-deranged, snapchat-addicted and snowflake-afflicted bastards- a generation apparently lost to technology and apathy who will either watch this world burn behind a sepia filter or suddenly wake up and reclaim our glorious destiny. It’s a fun story, but it never sat quite right with me because I feel that story has always been a lie. And even though we live in an era where we are supposed to accept the fact of ‘post truths’ – I’m calling out this one.

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Because what is politics if not expression? Our political and social systems were built on opinions and ideas, ideas that usually got ripped and ridiculed a few times before they became ‘right’. Things aren’t the way they are by fate, but by the design of the people whose voices reached the highest. Sometimes these were good people, and sometimes they weren’t, but they were, at the end of the day, just eating, sleeping, shitting, dreaming people. Armies were assembled by men who believed in what other men said. Money is a piece of paper whose value exists only because people all collectively agreed that it does, laws come and go with the evolution of ideas and people coming together to voice them. Culture, nationality and identity are rooted in our understanding of ourselves. Ideas and voices are what have created this world.

Yes, our participation in elections is game-changing. But, despite what they tell you, politics isn’t just about elections. Politics is so much more than question time and white papers and excruciating videos of members of parliament dabbing; politics is just as much about communities and creativity and ideas. It’s about having an opinion and raising your voice to express it. To work with the system but also to create something that will replace it. Because we are fucking great at creating things; we’ve created a world where YouTube can teach you anything from how to code to how to swallow a hot dog in 3 seconds; thousands of bedroom producers create music every day; we’ve damn near learned how to create new faces with makeup; and the microphone is louder than it’s ever been. It’s time we learnt how to create new ideas, new “politics”.

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And yet so many people (myself included) still feel so hopeless about it all. About this game of traditions that we get involved in once in awhile and then watch through squinted eyes for the rest. When I moved to London a couple of years ago, I found myself in a community of activists and protesters. One of them told me that she felt she had to shout and beat drums because she didn’t know what else she could do. That helplessness is what brought us together, it’s what has brought millions of people together over the years. And even if our efforts haven’t always changed government policy, collective expression turns hopelessness into potential. It made me realise that all of this is only as distant and untouchable as we perceive and allow it to be- the Berlin Wall literally crumbled under the pressure of ideas of the youth.

What I’m saying is that we don’t need an election to define us. We don’t do politics once every few years, we do it every day; our political world is incandescent. Vote, but create your own movement too; it doesn’t have to be a world revolution, but if you don’t like what you’re seeing, look around and ask yourself what you would want, and then express that with whatever you can; with words, music, films, memes- create something and you’ll find your voice. And that voice will amplify you and connect you if you let it.

History shows that ideas become so loud that they become impossible to ignore, structures are never as concrete as they seem. The world is fluid; don’t let yourself be swept under the tides.

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By Cynthia Mbuthia

A student of politics, music and words, self-defined as sitting somewhere between Frida Kahlo and Gucci Mane.

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