What People Get Wrong About 'Everything Is Political'
“Politics is pervasive. Everything is political and the choice to be “apolitical” is usually just an endorsement of the status quo and the unexamined life.”
At dinner back home, everything is on the table, except for politics. It's the big-ass elephant in the room. We keep the peace because a little niceness after the proverbial chaos of life doesn't sound too much of a bad idea. Let's not hurt mama with the in-fighting. Papa doesn't want to hear about what kids are up to these days. Our kid sister doesn't want to get caught in the crossfires of apologists from the opposite sides of the political spectrum. Each side thinks they're more right than the other. Each thinks the other is stupider than the rest. Nobody wants to give. But politics is shelved for regular dinner conversaton.
It is, however, inescapable. See, around us, hiding in plain sight, are the vestiges of political will. By our hands are some food we had delivered, made and brought to us by criminally underpaid workers from the kitchen to the ports. The rice is harvested by farm workers who have a hard time sending their kids to school. Our dinnerware is forged by some factory workers in some other neighboring Southeast Asian town whose pay isn't what it's supposed to be. In that same next town there are underage kids working in the sweatshops that produce the clothes on our families' backs.
Even the chairs we sit on, made by some local woodworker, had to be bought out by a bigger company that paid the craftsmen chump change for their labor. Nobody wants to bring this up because we can't confirm nor can we deny any of this. In fact, it comforts us to not to know. But looking at the trends of the world, it's hard to look away from the ugliest truths we have.
Everything is political. But not for the reasons most people think. In the post-truth age, we've been programmed with some messed-up, outdated notions of politics planted by radicalism, collective fatigue, and polarization. This side knows best. That side gets way too much hate. We've learned to treat politics like a damned superhero movie: good versus evil, redemption arcs, the good ones always prevail. It's all black and white, with no room for nuances.
But a lot of times, in those nuances, is where we can see the larger scope of politics come into play.
“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
- George Orwell
Most people are uncomfortable with topics like politics or religion because most people can't confront their own biases
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Outside the actual physical government, politics is embedded in our daily lives. As long as something is protected by the interests of a select group of people, then there is politics involved and, perhaps, needs to be dismantled. How we get to work, for starters, is political because transportation's efficiency is up to some choice politicians, their friends, and bilateral relations. Accessible housing is left to some fat landlords and cronies. Healthcare, on the other hand, is now being decided by people who aren't actual doctors or nurses or medical professionals. So is our access to information, because we're seeing how a free press can get dismantled by disinformation and propaganda. Politics creates a society's frameworks for thinking, which, in a broader sense, leads to the assumption that the act of thinking, itself, is political.
From the schools where we study and the jobs where we work to the food we eat, the art we see, and the books we read, there is a careful intersection of politics that happen upon their creation and sustenance. Education, in itself, can be viewed as a politicizing agent of a people, so it's no surprise why subjects are modified and books are banned (note: the ones who ban books are never the good guys). Our employers, at the end of the day, will only pay us what "legally" is our worth. How many underpaid, overexploited employees have the service industries gotten away with? Artists have the weight of politico-historical narratives on their shoulders. Books should always speak truth to power. Works of art should always reflect the times.
"X is political!" is something academics often say, but non-academics rarely understand— Arbie Baguios /bag•yos/ (@arbiebaguios) December 30, 2022
Because "political" is understood by non-academics as partisan politics, while academics mean it to be about power
How can we address this (beyond hopelessly repeating "X is political!")?
Limiting our politics to just partisanship is never productive. When someone comes up to us and tells us that everything is political, the sentiments of some, if not most, are automatically taken from partisan cues. The way we've been taught to understand and costume politics outside the academic sphere is just awful. We can clearly see a rise in radical utopian politics, only magnified by the social media age and indifferent tech giants.
There's plenty of psycho-social reasons why people fall to fanaticism. Some fall into it because they yearn for a sense of belongingness, hoping to find common people to share their views. Others do it because of their propagandist fetishization (they are either paid or are working on getting paid). Meanwhile, some people just get off on the hate and the idea of demonizing certain groups of people just invigorates them. That zeal and unquestioning devotion can, at times, feel so horrendously spiritual. It's cult-like behavior, we can see. But they don't know that. They'd rather not. Of course, from the outside looking in, we already know all this by now.
It isn't even fanatics' fault. Their delusion is shaped by the machine that allows this and the people that operate it. In most cases, they're simply victims of a well-oiled propaganda machine that's meant to gobble up the humanity in them. Politicians will always favor their careers' survival over the actual people. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media giants each have a hand in the cookie jar, too.
People end up defining their lives by partisanship. Because of this, they don't have to worry about the actual politics of their society. It's easy to decipher to them. I voted for the good guy. I voted for change. I voted what's best for the country.
Hell, even our pet animals can be political
"It’s political whether or not you consider it so, and I’d say even more so if you don’t consider it so. If you have the privilege but also the curse to not have to think about politics or live in a politicized body..."
- Elaine Castillo
Partisanship ebbs and flows, depending on the political climate. But the power dynamics of the times and the harrowing conditions our people are subjected to in the class divide are forever. That's what people get wrong about this conversation. The "everything is political" slogan pertains to the social ills of power, deception, and corruption, not the figures we "democratically" elect or the parties we support (side bar: the Philippine party system isn't really much of an ideological arena, is it?). Anybody who disagrees with this needs a reality check. We all live in our own bubbles, but that shouldn't mean we should turn a blind eye on other people's misfortunes and struggles. It's not their fault to begin with, and those who have more in life should give more and know more. It shouldn't take too much to give a shit but apparently, as we've come to learn, kindness and compassion take much more effort.
Politics can never be a separate entity from life. It is engraved into our birth rights. Politics is what gives us access to our actualization, from the commodities we can afford to the things we can dream of and make possible. It's the thing that decides our health, homes, work, money, opportunities, environmental protection, information, relationships, and even rest! That's what decides a society's capacity for truth and dissent. We can never make things too political because the fact that we exist is political. Everything is more politicized because politics is as pervasive as it has ever been. Man, ultimately, is a political animal.
These things don't exactly make for good banter, sure. It's going to sound way too preachy, heated, and repetitive. And maybe it is. But while these conversations can be difficult, they're essential to how we can collectively process and engage with our current affairs. The real challenge, however, is addressing people's gross reduction of our politics.
Maybe it starts with helping out at a local soup kitchen. Maybe it starts by listening more to people outside our echo chambers. Maybe it starts by creating more safe spaces for the disenfranchised in our communities and giving them more avenues to speak. Maybe it starts by us being more honest, too. Of all things, maybe it can start in something as simple and seemingly inconsequential as the dinner table. Talk about it. Or don't talk about it. What the hell. It will consume us either way.