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Monday, 11 May 2015

The personal is political.

This concept gets a lot of hate for very valid reasons I agree with.
Too often it is used to inject politics into EVERYTHING and to analyse everything through a personal political lens.
I genuinely believe this is n unfortunate inevitability of both the phrase and those that inspired it.

It is a complex and ambiguous term that has developed multiple meanings as it grew out of the insanity of feminist ideology (sorry feminists, I know there are good ones, but as a whole the movement is schizophrenic)

On one hand it declares that private matters, personal circumstances and experiences inform a person's politics.
I think this is irrefutable.
My politics was most influenced by my father. I'm a working class kid from a council estate. The political is VERY personal to me. Politics has had a huge impact on me, from education reforms throughout my childhood disrupting the quality of education to various changes to welfare and employment policy. (Welfare changes effect everyone; for example, the reduction of state housing & privatisation of low income housing has had a MASSIVE impact on things like house and rental/mortgage prices)

The other is more problematic as it seems to blame all personal troubles on politics, or find faults with everything (from political positions to the shirt some guy wears) by complaining about the ill effects to some imagined individual.
Not explaining how politics can and does effect you personally.
Not how your experiences inform your politics
Instead; how a political ideology should drive everything about you and dictate how you behave and what you consume.
It suggests that everything about a person, all people, should be defined by politics, by their ideology.
This is the side we see most often, inconsistent and hypocritical though it is.
It also goes a step further and declares that the identity of a speaker should confer authority on what they say.
I hope the difference is clear, so that the inordinate amount of chaff can be sorted from the grain ro two of wheat.

I do, however, often have arguments with people over the core assertion of the principle.
EVERYTHING is political.
Everything you do, every experience you've had and everything you consume is driven by politics.
Imagine something completely unrelated to politics.
A book.
Cant possibly be politics (ignoring the specific content)
But politics dictates;
  • If it can be published at all
  • How it is categorised
  • It's value in the market
  • Tax paid on it
  • The legal obligations of the publisher, retailer and consumer, as well as their rights
  • The manufacturing of the book
  • The circulation of that book (it didn't just materialise on your desk, it got there on public roads)
  • The ability to read what is written (education is deeply political, and without the politics that drove universal education the market for written media would be MUCH smaller, that market would shrink and less books would be written, or at least published)
That's just from the top of my head, and you can likely see more interrelated subjects, all that require a political perspective to make a reality. (even if your perspective it entirely laissez faire. That's a political position)
So, even the creation and reproduction of a book, something deeply personal and individual is political. Even an author working entirely alone is reliant on the vast network of society to accomplish anything, and society is simply the application of politics.

Note how none of this, zero, has dictated what political affiliation must be held.
The nearest to political interference at all is whether it can be published. Under some political authority there is tight control (mass censorship) and this is bad.
Personally, I think there should be almost no limit to what is allowable. Perhaps banning manuals on bomb making or similar? (though libel and instigation of violence should be prevented in print media)

Unfortunately "the personal is political" is often invoked to incense demographics to demand their personal political agenda should be enforced.
We see people asked to view everything through the lens of their chosen ideology, to find fault with everything and complain about those faults.
This to me is a breakdown in the political process, and an effort to divide people.

When we can see how politics effects us, how as individuals our own politics is formed and can empathise with these things in others from different circumstances, hopefully we can be more constructive.
We just need to abandon the notion that any ideology should drive a person at all times, or that a given identity automatically confers authority.
It's simply not possible and takes extraordinary cognitive dissonance to maintain such a standard, as reflected by the inconsistency and hypocrisy of those declaring the personal is political.