As we gear up for the general election, I’m reminded of another September, three years ago. A night where I watched the numbers rise with horror. A night where I realised, finally, that I’d been living in a liberal bubble. A night where, following the result, I posted a picture of myself sobbing on social media and encouraged others to share it because I wanted people to see the real human impact of politics.
It’s weird being a vulnerable person in the leadup to an election. Everything matters. Every policy could detonate in the middle of my life. I envy those for whom politics is academic. A game. For whom it doesn’t really matter which way things end up swinging, because at the end of it they’ll still be alright. They might be a few bucks shorter or a few better off, but really, who’s in power doesn’t effect them. Not in their day-to-day life.
They can opt out. They don’t have to engage with the media circus, the arguments, the scandals. They don’t have to read policies carefully to assess how they might impact them. Hell, some people don’t even know there’s an election happening right now, and what’s more, they won’t vote. It’s inconceivable to me, but it’s true.
Unfortunately, that’s not my reality. It’s hard to explain how acutely exhausting it is being a vulnerable minority in the current climate. The last few weeks have been a storm of severe magnitude, and I, along with many others, have been buffeted all over the place. Not all of that is negative. We’ve seen huge, unexpected change, both in leadership and in policy, and that’s really really encouraging.
But it’s also really scary. Because you know what? I thought we were going to have a change of government following the last election. I really did. So there is absolutely no way I’m getting my hopes up, polls or no polls, new leadership or no leadership. I won’t believe anything until long after the last vote has been counted.
I’m going to be honest. I have nto read as much policy as I should have. I have not watched the leaders’ debates. I am staying engaged and I am staying educated, but there is a measure of self-protection involved here. There just has to be.
That shield is incredibly hard to maintain, because politics is everywhere, and never more so than right now. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – it’s not. We’re a few weeks out and it should be everywhere. I’d go as far as saying no one should really be talking about anything else. This is an absolutely crucial time for New Zealand’s future. Anyone with the means and rights to vote should be educating themselves and planning on doing so. (Voting accessibility is another issue altogether).
I guess the thing is this: however the country votes – that’s an indication of what they think of me, and my right to live, and it will have an impact on my ability to do so. I wish this was just selfish histrionics, but it’s not. A vote right is a vote against beneficiaries, against people with chronic illness, against people with mental illness, and against equal rights for women. Considering I fall under all these banners – it stands to reason that a vote right is a vote again me. And it’s pretty hard not to feel fucking awful when you get the message that the majority of the country doesn’t care if you can afford to live or access proper healthcare. That the majority of the country is more interested in their tax cuts than in your human rights.
So yes, I have shut down. I have turned off the TV and walked away. I have put my phone on silent and just read a goddamn novel.
Because I’m terrified. I’m terrified that, despite all the hope and change and momentum the left has gained these past few weeks, that it’s a false economy, and this is going to be a repeat of three years ago.
I just want to say to other people who might be reading this who are also minorities – Maori, beneficiaries, chronically ill, women, all of the above – I see you. I’m standing with you. I might be quiet, but I’m here.
Whatever happens, we’ll weather it together.