Like many Canberrans entering the final weeks of a federal election campaign, my sanity is hanging by a thread (though some of you would argue that’s the case for me in a regular week).
Every time I turn on the radio, there’s a journalist talking about how “Canberra” is so far removed from the reality of everyday Australians. What are we then? Imaginary Australians?
There are corflutes lining every major road, and the debate is getting hot with a senate seat in actual contention for what feels like the first time in a long while.
But while the politically engaged among us may relish the opportunity to dive into election madness, I still feel burnt from last time (I really didn’t see the Liberal win coming in 2019) and that, combined with the exhaustion and disengagement from two years of COVID, means I’m not particularly resilient when it comes to disappointment.
More importantly, I don’t have the energy to play nice with people who are intent on maintaining a status quo that in my opinion has been nothing short of a disaster over the past three years, for another go around.
To keep things pleasant, I’d rather not know how my friends, colleagues and networks are voting.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s impolite to even ask people about their political preferences at all.
The fact is, if we’re on different ends of the political spectrum, I don’t actually have that much to discuss with you when it comes to politics. I don’t think debating issues that we already have set views on is to anyone’s benefit. Maybe that means I have a rigid, inflexible mind but, like most people, I also clearly believe my views are correct – so I’m ok with that.
I have moved past the enthusiasm and energy of my youth, when I thought that a different opinion to mine represented an opportunity to change someone’s mind on issues that were important to me. These days, I recognise political difference and choose to either ignore it in the interest of friendship or quietly exit the relationship.
Many people will say this is a judgmental approach. “Political differences don’t mean people are wrong or bad,” they might say. “It’s not personal, people are entitled to their beliefs”.
That’s true but I’m also entitled to dislike their beliefs and to take it personally, because it actually is personal. Conservative economic policies have a measurable impact on my life, and the lives of the people I love who are struggling to find affordable housing, to get by on low incomes with the rising cost of living, and who find themselves trying to survive on welfare payments that aren’t designed to actually support their welfare.
Political apathy on climate change has had a measurable impact on my life, and the future lives of the people I care about (especially those who haven’t been born yet), as we face extreme weather events, and the likelihood that the Australia we love won’t exist in the same way in 50 years time.
And when I extrapolate out to conservative social policies that privilege the privileged and take aim at diversity, my disdain starts to escalate and edge towards the unkind.
So, in the interest of conserving my sanity and avoiding destroying the casual relationships I have with people who I don’t know the political leanings of, I’m staying silent on the election (except here on Riotact, obviously). There’s a reason our votes are conducted in private, and I’m happy to extend that privacy to outside the polling booth.
If we can make it through the coming week and a bit without any destroyed relationships at the hands of political difference, that’s a solid outcome in my books – pending the actual election result.