The diary of a first-time voter: Politics is the study of power

Yesterday I was sitting in a café with my friend Cahal, discussing politics. More specifically, we were having a discussion about a recent paper that he sat on the subject. One question had been “What is politics?” He smiles: “I said politics is the study of power.”

The diary of a first-time voter: Politics is the study of power

I feel comfortable in these sorts of political conversations — they’re what I’m used to. When I think of politics, concepts of capitalism, socialism, communism, geopolitics, anarchy, neo-liberalism, and globalisation are what I gravitate to. When it comes to national and local politics, I’m afraid I’m less well-versed. This is uncomfortable to admit, because I don’t really like to confess to any ignorance on my own part. When a group of older friends are cracking jokes about whatever politician, it usually results in my engagement in a bout of furious under-the-table Googling.

That’s not to say I don’t care about political issues. I care about repealing the eighth amendment, and the right to bodily autonomy. I care about the environment, and Ireland fulfilling the promises we made at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris this December. I care about the quality of, and access to, education in Ireland. I care about the rights of the elderly, of children, of the Traveller community, of migrants, of the LGBTQIA community.

I care about healthcare, and the support of artists and musicians. I am passionate about all these things and more — most young people I know are. The only problem is that I don’t know which political party will represent my enthusiasm for all these ideals — I wouldn’t want to compromise on any of them. I’m not sure any current political party could, even if they promised such a thing tomorrow — maybe this is where the notion of student apathy stems from?

I was mulling this over as I cycled home from the library. I had been at a “Students Against Fees” march, in solidarity with the Institutes of Technology strikes on Wednesday. As we had rambled past the Dáil, chanting, I shared a picture of the rally on Facebook. I looked up and locked eyes with an RTÉ cameraman filming us intently. Images of headlines like “Millennial March” and “A New Generation of Slacktivists?” have plagued me all week. Momentarily wandering from these musings I realised that the general election posters had been vomited up onto Rathgar road.

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Later a post was made on the page set up for people living in Trinity Halls — a picture captioned “Vote Responsibly!” A student was posing with an assortment of campaign posters he had managed to take down. He commented below: “If anyone finds a low hanging fianna fail, pbp [People Before Profit], aaa [Anti-Austerity Alliance], social dems or that manx lad posters pls pm [personal message]”. Apart from general indeterminate political distrust, I can’t really relate to this. It would appear I have a lot to read up on before election day.

Jessie's next diaries

February 10: Understanding, and confusion, is growing

February 13: My biggest political concern is climate change

February 17: The diary of a first-time voter: What recovery are they talking about?

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