You may not want to admit it, but you’re political.
If the idea of that fills you with dread, then I think there may have been a miscommunication.
But don’t worry, let’s clear it up!
Among a lot of people I know, there is a common misconception that politics is an icky thing that’s not fit for polite conversation.
I think part of this is because among these people, all politicians are seen as corrupt, and elections are seen as a mere choice between the lesser of two evils.
But the process of voting (or choosing not to) is just one piece of the political puzzle!
Here’s Why You’re Political
Regardless of your opinions on politicians or politics as a whole, you need politics to survive.
For some people–perhaps even you–the choice between ultra evil and moderately evil can be life or death.
So maybe we need to reframe that “lesser of two evils” idea and recognize that politics are about more than just two bad choices. Instead, it is about the rights and comforts that are granted or denied to us by the government.
If you don’t already care about politics, it’s time that you start.
Here are some reasons that politics might affect your life.
10. You drive a vehicle.
In order to do so, you probably need a government-issued driver’s license. You’ll need a vehicle that has passed safety regulations dictated by the government. You’ll need to follow traffic laws dictated by the government. The quality of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure features are determined by government budgets.
That’s just the beginning.
It may seem far-fetched that politicians can directly impact your right to drive, but consider that there are countries where politicians made laws banning women from driving or banning men and women from being in a car together unless they are married.
Those of us who enjoy the freedom of driving with relatively few restrictions should thank politics for that!
If you drive, you’re political.
9. You use transportation aside from your own vehicle.
Even if you don’t drive yourself, politics dictates what alternate options are available to you.
Government regulations influence how taxi and rideshare companies are allowed to operate. Government funding influences what kind of public transportation infrastructure is available. Flights are determined by governmental bodies like the FAA. Even bike lanes or pedestrian walkways are initiatives that typically come about because of local government decisions.
Most of us leave our homes at least occasionally, and we rely on politics to give us options for moving around in the world.
If you use any form of transportation, you’re political!
8. You travel (or want to).
There are so many ways that politics impacts travel, from transportation mentioned above to borders and visas, designated national and state parks, and local laws that may dictate who is allowed in certain locations.
Consider that there are places around the world where people may be unwelcome to visit because of laws (politics!) prohibiting someone’s religion, race, marital status, gender, sexuality, or choice of clothing.
(Would the anti-maskers go wild if they went to some of the places I’ve traveled that required me to wear an additional piece of fabric over my clothing or head when visiting certain locations like temples, mosques, or religious ruins?)
The politics in Hong Kong directly impacted one of my trips because of an extradition law (which could affect me as a tourist and cause me to be arrested and sent to a Chinese prison, assuming that I happened to break a serious law in Hong Kong) and the ensuing political protests (which closed many restaurants and attractions that I hoped to visit during my stay).
The politics in England and South Africa directly impacted the outcome of medical emergencies where I had to call an ambulance and visit the emergency room, and both times I had to pay nothing because of their public healthcare systems.
On the flip side, politics impacted the outcome of a friend’s US trip when he had a medical emergency and ended up with several thousand dollars in medical debt, even after his travel insurance company paid their share. Politics drives the outrageous healthcare costs in the US.
The politics in Indonesia impacted me because government corruption allowed law enforcement officials to extort bribes from me and my travel companions.
For those of us who are wanting to travel, either domestically or internationally, politics can make or break a trip.
If you are daydreaming about your next adventure, you’re political.
7. You want businesses to advertise truthfully.
We’ve probably all had an experience where false advertising or ambiguous product descriptions have led to us purchasing an item that didn’t meet our expectations. For the most part, these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Can you imagine if there was little guarantee that you were purchasing an item you actually want?! Ordering a piece of black clothing and having it arrive pink. Purchasing a frying pan only to put it on the stove and have it melt. Buying expensive tech that stopped working after a day or two. Paying an accountant to file your taxes only to find out after tax day that they never completed the services you paid them for.
Government regulations prevent this from happening most of the time. And if it does happen, there are ways that politics can help you, such as laws that allow consumers to sue businesses for false advertising.
If you spend money on things, you’re probably political.
6. You eat at restaurants.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen, then you’ll have seen the government signs plastered everywhere. Employees at restaurants need to follow all kinds of regulations to ensure that the food they serve is safe.
Health and safety inspectors make sure that restaurants are following government regulations to keep their dining experience safe.
Government organizations (like the FDA and USDA in the United States) further ensure food safety for diners.
If you expect to be fairly safe from food poisoning at restaurants, you’re political.
5. You believe in gender equality.
Women’s rights have come a long way, but there are still disparities in pay, representation, healthcare, and access to education.
Gender discrimination exists across the world, and the extent of it is often based on the politicians who are regulating such social issues.
If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you feel that women have attained equality, then you can thank politics for that.
Either way, if you have any thoughts about gender equality, you’re political.
4. You support disability rights.
People with disabilities make up the largest minority group. If you yourself aren’t disabled, you probably know and care about somebody who is.
While we as individuals can do our best to help those we know with disabilities, the biggest help comes from government regulation that allows disabled people to be accommodated in schools, jobs, and public places.
If you are disabled or care about disabled people, you’re political.
3. You would expect justice for a crime committed against you or a loved one.
Let’s have a little thought experiment and imagine that crimes are no longer punished. Even if you haven’t seen The Purge, you can probably imagine how grim that reality would be.
No criminal justice system is perfect, but in general, I think most of us would expect that if somebody commits a crime, there should be some kind of legal action taken in response.
And guess who dictates how the legal system is run?! Yep, it’s politicians.
If you have feelings about the legal system, you’re political.
2. You’ve used tap water.
It is the government that regulates water quality.
Without that regulation, there is much more of a chance that the water could be dangerous. Even so, there are undoubtedly problems with the water quality in many places, and the only way to ensure that this is addressed is through politics.
If you use tap water, you’re political.
1. You breathe.
See where I’m going with this?
Government regulations influence air quality. Tighter standards mean safer air for those of us with lungs.
Without politicians who care about air quality, things can be bleak. (I’ve seen this firsthand when I lived in Jakarta for a year and couldn’t see the sky through the pollution.)
If you want to be able to breathe, you’re political.
BONUS: If you’re on this website, you’re political.
If you’re on this sustainability-focused site, then you probably care about sustainability.
While we as individuals can have an influence over sustainability, the biggest and most substantial changes to the sustainability sphere need to come from government policies.
If you care about sustainability, you’re political.
So you’re political, now what?!
It’s time to participate!
Remember, if you don’t like how things are being run locally, state-wide, or nationally, nothing will change without people fighting for that change.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,Dr. Seuss
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Politicians’ jobs aren’t to run things however they want; their job is to run things how their constituents want. We’re the constituents, and we need to make our voices heard!
Political activism comes in many shapes and sizes and comes down to choosing the people who run the government (by voting) and holding those people accountable (by letters, petitions, grassroots campaigns, lobbying, etc.).
For those of us who live in countries where we have the power to participate in our government, it is foolish for us to complain about the way things work and then do nothing to change things.
So whether you want to keep things the same or make changes, you’re political! Make your voice heard!
Continuing the Conversation
Which of these issues do you care about the most? What can you do to encourage politicians to protect or expand on your rights? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!