History defines people by the politicians who lead them. If you take a look at the history books you will see it dominated by political leaders, whether they are Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Revolutionaries or dictators. These are the people who determine the direction the world heads in, almost always with huge implications on our day to day lives.
My interest in politics was sparked by my history lessons in school. Studying history helped me realise just how much politics can have massive implication on the way a country and its people develop. This is particularly evident when looking at periods of the 20th century, where the two superpowers of the time, the United States, and the Soviet Union, headed in two completely opposite directions due to the actions of politicians. Almost 100 years to the day that Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, the ripples of those events are still impacting everyday Russian life.
With Remembrance Day around the corner, it is also worth noting just how consequential wars actually are. World War I began as a direct result of rivalries and pacts formed by the leading European nations in the lead up to 1914. The war claimed the lives of millions and resulted in the allied forces placing heavy financial sanctions on Germany. This, coupled with the Wall Street Crash in America, lead to complete financial collapse in Germany and ultimately cleared the path for the mass murdering megalomaniac, Adolf Hitler, to come to power in Germany.
Hitler’s leadership lead to millions of deaths in World War II, as well as the mass slaughter of over six million Jewish people at the hands of utterly despicable politicians. The war was ultimately ended when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively, murdering between 90,000 and 150,000 innocent civilians. With right wing politics beginning to regain a foothold in the western sphere, it cannot be stressed just how important it is that we learn from past mistakes and speak up and fight for what is right.
The reality is, the more people engage with politics, the more influence people have over the politicians who represent them. Take a look at the United States in the 1950s. If Rosa Parks had given up her seat as was expected of her, the Montgomery bus boycotts would never have happened. If Martin Luther King didn’t stand up for what he knew was right, politicians wouldn’t have felt any pressure to improve the rights of African Americans. Without people standing up and engaging in politics, we could still have apartheid in America. It is almost unthinkable.
Had Nelson Mandela never stood up for what he believed in and inspired millions of black South Africans, would South Africa have freed itself from the shackles of apartheid and go on to host both the rugby and football world cups?
Take a look at British and American foreign policy in the aftermath of 9/11. The war in Iraq left over four million people displaced, destroyed the Iraqi economy leaving unemployment at nearly 60%, as well as leaving thousands dead, infrastructure in tatters and lives ruined forever. What makes this even harder to accept is that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair misled Parliament about the reasons for going to war.
People are, in many countries across the world, becoming more and more frustrated with modern day politics and the ever-increasing feeling that politicians are out of touch with their own interests. This shouldn’t be the case. The more engaged a population is with politics and social causes, the more likely politicians are to take notice.
While it may be easier to ignore politics and opt for an easier life, we owe it to ourselves and those around us who are unable to stand up for themselves, to fight for the better world that we all deserve.
Democracy is founded on the principle that the politicians are elected by the people to represent the views of the people. The more people who neglect politics, the more likely it is that power will pass from the people to the politicians, creating a system that goes against the wants and needs of the general public. This is how democracy erodes, with decisions being made behind closed doors that influence not just the everyday lives of you and I, but the very direction humanity heads in.
We need to be the ones who seize the initiative and leave behind a much fairer, better world for our children, grandchildren and even our great-grandchildren. We have the power to shape the very future of human existence. This is why, for me, politics matters.