I don’t know if you’ve seen it in the news this week, but there was a General Election in the UK.
After what felt like one of the most polarising pre-election periods of the past 20years, the Conservative party retained their leadership. Boris Johnson can relax and re-organise his wardrobe in Downing Street.
The former Mayor of London isn’t the most popular Prime Minister, if media and cultural conversation is to be believed. However, under his leadership the Tory party managed to secure their biggest majority since the 1980s.
The world is worried; or London seems to be at least. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of people sharing their anger and despair. Like the shades of grief, people seemed to have first experienced sadness at being represented by someone lacking clear principles. Second came anger as the #notmygovernment was the most active # on twitter following the announcement.
With the fallout of the Brexit vote still dominating headlines, there’s quite a bit of disappointment in the UK leadership candidates. While many saw Jeremy Corbin as a better kind of politician, few members of his party fully backed him as a leader. Regardless of how enchanted you were by the options though, the social pressure to vote was on.
I remember a few years ago, Celebrities and CEOs started expressing their political opinions for the first time, publicly. There was a lot of conversation in the media about whether it was appropriate for these people to be using their influence in this way. Well fast forward to 2019 and do you even have influence if you don’t use it to talk about the vote?!
People in the UK might as well dress all in red, or all in blue. They LOVE to talk about who they’re voting for and why. To be honest, for a while I wasn’t going to vote. I didn’t believe in any of the options. However when I considered just how hard the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst had fought for me to be able to, I of course checked myself and registered.
On the day of the election, I was travelling back from Calais, where I’d just spent a few days volunteering with The Refugee Community Kitchen. They’ve been stationed in Northern France since 2016, providing hot meals for refugees trying to get to the UK. Four years later, there are still 100s of people waiting there with no real clarity on their future.
RCK and the other organisations working in the crisis areas are entirely volunteer led, and rely on donations to keep going. I realised when we were serving the food, that if we weren’t there, nobody would be.
I got back to the UK to see so many people energised by the importance of voting. When it didn’t go the way they had been fighting for, they took to social media to complain about their fears for the country.
And, I couldn’t help but feel; if you feel so strongly about equal opportunity and helping vulnerable people, why don’t you do something about it? Governments have a lot of power and the potential to make a difference. But so do individuals.
Wangari Maathai was an individual responsible for planting 30million trees throughout Africa, in order to have an impact on the environment. Irena Sendler was an individual who, during WWII, is credited with rescuing 2,500 Jewish children from ghettos and smuggling them out of Poland. Greta Thunberg is an individual. Malala Yousafzai, is an individual.
We are so adamant and aware of the importance and privilege of living in a democracy. But have we let this become the way we validate ourselves as change makers?
A general election happens one day every four years and takes very little effort for you as an individual. So what could you do with some of the other days that also may have a positive impact on the world?
I think it’s a conversation we need to be having with ourselves. It’s certainly something I’m thinking about, because while we readily tweet and snap and post confidently about the need for change, there are a few people across the world who have woken up to the reality that change can come from anywhere.