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On the Popularization of Political Activity in America

Updated on November 4, 2008

On Becoming Politically Active and Knowledgeable

Political activism is extremely important, particularly given the “shrinking” of the planet in which the environment and political machinations of human beings is having a heightening effect on more and more of the rest of the world. Yet the very minimum to such activism, though often not thought as such, is simply voting. By registering to vote and then following through, we humans are showing the powers that be that we still care about how and where we are led.

In an effort to bring politics more strongly and effectively to the local level in England, political organizer Paul Wheeler states that one of the key ingredients to this is the popularization of political activity. To do so, he writes, “Far better to have people join political parties for positive reasons than because they hate the other parties.”[1] In the United States, this raises a very important point, particularly given the sharp polarization of politics that has been brought about by the neo-Liberal policies of George W. Bush.

As of this writing, Bush has just over 2 months left in office. However, his policies, such as his tax cuts for the ultra wealthy and his hampering of the Environmental Protection Agency, to list just two of his activities, will have long-ranging effects on millions of people for many years. For this reason, it is important that Americans, long known for being apolitical, become political.

How this is to happen begins with every individual; It cannot be forced or institutionalized, though schools and singular teachers have been pushing this ideal in classrooms since the 1960’s, with limited success. Yet it is when the individual decides for herself to become more active and knowledgeable (and thus more powerful), that true momentum begins.

One method of becoming more political is reading the daily paper to learn what is being said (and more importantly) done by politicians. It is highly recommended that the theoretical and historical background of political science back this up. Textbooks on this subject are practically given away at the end of each semester at colleges all across America and are thus relatively inexpensive in bookstores everywhere.

The reason for this is that politics are seen as boring, abstract, and meaningless to the average person. For those that this holds true for, watching movies about politics is a good means of ‘politicizing’ the neurons and making the nuts and bolts of politics less confusing and tedious.

Further, when a textbook on political science won’t do, there are many books on politics aimed at the general populace (and at being placed high on the plethora of best seller’s lists). Many of the authors of these books are the same speakers heard on MSNBC News, Fox News, CNN, as well as talk radio, etc.

Of course, it should be remembered that many of these more popular political books are popular simply because they can forward ideas that are so radical, reactionary, or simply colorful that they escape the boundaries of good thought, and with good reason.

Finally, it is recommended that one speak about politics whenever and wherever possible.

Americans have long shunned speaking of politics and religion. In this author’s opinion, these are two of the most important aspects of life as citizens. Further, this taciturn attitude may well be responsible for our ever-lowering math and science skills and subsequently, our diminishing economic position in the world, for if we don’t speak about politics, our understanding (and voting) will reflect such ignorance.

When the constituency doesn’t turn out for the vote in large numbers, as continues to happen, and when voting takes on a purely emotional, rather than rational nature, bad politicians inevitably find their way into office.

This article is nowhere near exhaustive in its approach to guiding citizens to becoming more political. However, the tools that it offers will enable any individual to guide him or herself towards greater political understanding.

1 Wheeler, Paul “Time for Change: A New Role for Local Politics.”Renewal 14 No. 2 (2006): 31

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