Saturday, 10 November 2012

Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll be well aware that America had a presidential election recently. There were the normal debates, mud-slinging contests (I'd say Obama had the most thrown at him but that would come off as unintentionally racist), the usual 'let's blame the other party for everything that's gone wrong', but this time we had the addition of memes! The ones from 2008 were pretty lacklustre in all honesty but this year, people went all out. Considering some of the Republican candidate lines that came out (legitimate rape and binders full of women, anyone?), it's not entirely surprising.
I also noticed that I took more of an interest this time around as well as my interest in politics has increased. It's sort of like how vegetables get more palatable as you get older. Of course, it doesn't happen to everyone and personally I still can't stand parsnips. Despite your level of interest, it's been an interesting event to observe online nonetheless.

There is a tendency, even in this day and age, even on a subconscious level, to judge and label people. Firstly there's the visual; you see someone overweight and you assume it's their own doing, not medical. Someone mentions their religion or sexuality and again there's a small sticky label applied. It doesn't necessarily imply prejudice, simply awareness of factors that shape their opinions and beliefs. Political views are the thing that rarely factor into discussion. One thing I have observed is that no matter who is in power, people will complain and that seems to be the only thing that unites everyone on a political level. This election, aided by social media, has made a lot of people painfully aware of each others political views and in some cases, changed perception of people as a result.
It is now very common to add people you barely know to your Facebook or Twitter but come political issues, one starts to question exactly how well someone knows someone or has in common with them. This election has been in some ways the equivalent of seeing your parents naked; somehow everything has changed and you can't quite look at them the same again.
My personal Facebook has a lot of people added who I met through online gaming, and yet some of the views I've seen expressed have reminded me of this time I really liked this guy and found out he voted Tory. Completely killed how I felt about him. I think that was the first time I realised how strongly politics had actually affected me. During this election period, I saw some of the most insane things claimed on Facebook. I saw people who are fine with my bisexuality saying they didn't agree with same-sex marriage. People who had always seemed totally open-minded coming out with covertly racist statements. The increasing involvement of religion was also disturbing. America had never come across as a country where religion dictated laws before, or maybe I only really got a good glimpse of this during the election campaigns. My hat was off for Joe Bidden though who said that even though he's a Catholic, he believes that the state and church should be separate. After all, the country is meant to be welcoming to all, no? Surely there are those within the country who are not Christian as well? And what about the 2480204724 different branch-offs of Christianity where they all seem to believe different things? I have to say that the attempt to shoehorn in religious views into the running of a country is not something that I believe in myself; maybe because England is secular in that sense with the church and state being separate.
Another thing that shocked me was how little some people knew about affairs outside of their own country. I took an interest in the American elections because I was aware how the result would impact on the rest of the world. Somehow, this seemed to have passed a lot of Americans by. It was also interesting to see how many of those being vocal had actually heard of the policies of other parties and candidates. All to often I saw "liberal" and "leftie" thrown around as insults. "Commie" also featured a couple of times which gave me a good chuckle and left me suppressing the urge to call them fascists in return.

It wasn't all about those who were pushing their views though. There was also a great amount of apathy towards who actually got voted in. I realised this is because of America's very broken election process of "electoral colleges" which are meant to take into account the public (aka "popular") vote but seem to have the power to ignore it completely. Now, I could understand this maybe a century or so ago when people were less educated, however it does seem somewhat of an insult now, as much as I love teasing my American friends by saying they can't be trusted to vote on their own and someone has to pick their president for them. Having said that, it's kind of given that if you vote in x person to congress, then you're wanting that party to be in charge of the whole country. At least that's how I've come to understand how the American political system works...
The problem is with how this apathy extends overseas though. Had the last General Election in my country had a higher turnout, I don't believe we would be in the mess we are in now with a coalition government who couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery. Could I do a better job? For sure, but with the current people in charge I think a dried dog turd could do a better job considering we're now heading towards a triple dip recession.

On both sides of the pond, I've noticed a general ignorance towards how politics in other countries do actually matter. There are many people in America who can't understand why the rest of the world were concerned about who won the presidential elections and by the same token there were a lot of people in England who didn't seem to realise why we should be paying attention to who's voted in over there. Simple fact is that whoever rules America, pretty much rules the world. Bush always seemed to be in more for world domination over running his own country, and I had a nasty feeling that Romney would have done something similar. There's also the fact that the US sets a huge precedence with its laws. Legalisation of cannabis in America would cause other countries to rethink their positions as well. This is another reason people are so keen for America to legalise gay marriage across the country; because there are still many countries where people who are gay are killed. I wish I was kidding. But the truth is that what America does usually shapes the world. Other countries do have influence, but not half as much as America does.

But, elections are over so it's time to unpack the lolcats and get back to business, internet!