Keep politics local to avoid anxiety
A few weeks ago I was speaking with a group of students about the role of government and politics. The students were able to explain some of the major policies and ideological positions of both former US President Donald Trump and current US President Joe Biden, but looked at me with blank faces when I asked about the work and policies of Winston Peters – someone who has been a prominent figure in New Zealand politics for the entirety of their lifetime.
The more I’ve thought about this, the more frustrated I’ve become; not with the group of students, but the way their comments reveal a truth about the way we consume, rather than engage with politics.
“In a genuine community, the decisions which most directly affect the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.”
Political geeks like me will often argue that US politics makes international waves that reach New Zealand, and it’s worth keeping a keen eye on American policy. This is true, but we shouldn’t forget that decisions in Washington D.C. will never have as consistent an impact on our everyday lives as those made in our local communities. As political theorist Russell Kirk put it, “In a genuine community, the decisions which most directly affect the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.”
Watching politics playing out on the world stage can certainly be interesting, but largely it’s just anxiety inducing. It’s overwhelming to see big and complex problems unfolding overseas and simultaneously recognise our own inability to do anything about them. The beauty of local politics is that we’re not only encouraged to participate, when we do our local decisions can lead to observable solutions to local problems. While it’s true that I have little to zero influence on the decisions being made in the United States, our democratic system means that I can participate in decision-making processes in my community, city, and national democracy, and perhaps attend to some of the problems we face here.
A truth about the way we consume, rather than engage with politics
A good place to begin is taking the time to not only know the name of our politicians and members of local government, but to get a handle on their policies and positions. By paying attention to more than just the name and the face we’re better equipped to vote responsibly, write submissions, and be able to make helpful comment.
This might sound insignificant, but in reality, these actions are essential to our democracy functioning as intended and can have an enormous impact on the communities we live in. In fact, our country and communities rely upon us doing so – the democratic process doesn’t work without the people playing their part. If you’re keen for more, talk to your local MP, go along to a local council meeting, become a member of a political party, perhaps even consider standing for your local board.
The democratic process doesn’t work without the people playing their part
But most importantly, next time you’re overwhelmed with the state of the world remember not to doomscroll international political news at the expense of what’s happening locally. It’s the local decisions that have the biggest impact on our daily lives, and it’s where we can make the biggest change.go back