The Need For Political Literacy

How many of us can tell the difference between a rightist or leftist party, and what do these terms even mean?

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In terms of international politics, 2015 was a roller-coaster year. The Syrian civil war, refugees, ISIS and Trump were a few phrases frequenting the headlines. The political landscapes in the EU, the US and several other countries went through massive shifts. Each bit of political news should generate a responsive emotion, such as sadness, fear or anger, as each is a human situation and we ultimately all belong to the same family tree. Still, for political aficionados, who tend to view such happenings in a more detached fashion, the events of 2015 were utterly riveting and a great source of coffee table talk. The problem is outside these circles, I have noticed a general disinterest and almost distaste in what is going on in the world of politics.

I myself hold two widely contrasting views on politics. In the first view, I am completely political neutral. There is not a political party in the world that I endorse or support. I find many fundamental flaws in the current system of electoral politics and its ability to serve the masses. I have little patience for those who sacrifice their principles for political gain, but unfortunately many times the system seems to make such sacrifices necessary. I view politics as the puppet show for us in the audience to witness, while the strings are pulled behind the scenes.

In my other view, though, I am a political junkie. I follow the political news regularly, and keenly study different political philosophies and ways of governance. My interest in politics in similar to my interest in economics. I simply concede that these are the forces in the modern world that will inevitably influence the present and future, and whether I like the political system or not, I see much more advantage in being informed of where the currents are going.

I can understand the apathy towards politics. Politicians are generally considered a largely unscrupulous lot, willing to lie and cheat to get their grubby hands on power, with few exceptions. Politics is often called the dirty game, full of backroom deals and special favors. When politicians perform their tasks well and are effective at governance, this won’t really be a catchy headline. But as soon as a politician is found to have betrayed the public trust, this immediately reinforces previously held views that politics is sometimes too sullied a field to hold one’s interest in.

The above concerning the mismanagement and corruption associated with politics may well be true. But none of this absolves one of a personal responsibility towards oneself to be at least minimally aware of how politics work. The major movers and shakers in society inevitably gain when the public shows such widespread ignorance. For example, outside of party names and slogans, how many of us are aware of what policies are being advocated for on a national level, or what the party platforms are? How many of us can tell the difference between a rightist or leftist party, and what do these terms even mean?

The first step is to familiarize yourself with your local political scene, and at least gain an understanding who is in charge. After which, you can move to national and global politics.

The bottomline is that being politically informed is not the same as being politically involved. The necessity of the latter is certainly debatable; that of the former is certainly not.


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