I have a problem. A serious problem. I’m beset by some kind of political depression.

It’s not because I fear the result of the UK’s forthcoming general election – even if Labour wins there will be scant optimism. The battle is about who cuts what, when – aside from occasional forays into whether Brown is a bully or whether Cameron u-turns on marriage tax. Brown is battered, Cameron is weak, and Clegg is non-existent. Will even 50% of the population be enthused enough to vote? A heavily indebted, inward looking, security paranoid, deeply unequal population needs some cause for optimism, but where is that to be found?

In the meantime workers are ranting about refinery closures in France, increases in pension age in Spain, and everything in Greece. Meanwhile in Brussels everyone is playing silly power games about a nomination to Washington, and everyone is trying to undermine the High Rep for Foreign Policy who was supposed to help the EU play a greater role in world affairs. Fat chance. [UPDATE: more on the strikes in The Economist here]

To deal with all of these things 2 things are lacking: incentives and leadership. To deal with any of these issues we need strong, optimistic and visionary leaders, at national and also at EU level, people who can show that solidarity or common EU action or whatever is in the interests of everyone. People that can create a narrative that brings together business and worker interests, people that can persuade the baby boom generation that they don’t have to mess up absolutely everything for the generation coming after them. Where are those people? Or maybe it’s because the incentives are wrong within political parties, hence preventing those people emerging?

Beyond that all of this is intensely personal. Here I am, a political motivated individual with good skills (particularly when it comes to internet politics) and I’m effectively pottering around the edges. I’m designing websites for politicians but the sites do not come close to pushing the boundaries of net politics as all the individuals concerned are in the same restrictive structures that prevent the emergence of visionary leadership… Since the Atheist Bus Campaign I have no major, concrete online deliverable that I can point to.

Offline is no better – I just cannot bear political meetings that are filled with bla bla for hours on end, never-ending lists of reasons why X or Y cannot be accomplished, and interminably dull speeches designed by speakers to make themselves look intelligent rather that actually getting to the crux of an issue. It all depresses me enormously.

But what the hell is the conclusion of all of this? What should I do? I’m an intensely political person, driven by ideology and some desire to make the world a better place (oh how naive that sounds). But I’m terribly lacking inspiration and ways to do that just now.

Photo: Joe Mott “Walking Away” August 7, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution


  1. @Julien – I think @Jack’s solution is a good one… but I don’t know what the hell to focus on, and who to do it with. That focus was – once upon a time – a campaign for federalism, but now I have no clue.

    @helena – valid points, but I find it very hard to get out of thinking in a political manner. I’ve (unhealthily) lived for politics for too long. It’s something akin to a drug addiction. So just concerning myself with something else is not simple. Maybe, as the spring is coming, some more sport in the coming months might help a bit? I’m hoping.

    @french derek – I could not be like Quatremer, and I’m not sure I would want to either. Firstly he’s a paid up journalist – he covers loads of stuff he’s not interested in, and has to file copy. I’m not a journalist – I’m a jack of all trades who happens to be able to rant on a blog from time to time. I also don’t have the self confidence to just put my name around. I am well aware of the areas I have strengths and try to play to those.

    @jack – hmmm, yes. But on what? And from where? And with whom? And what might bring in a few pennies? (says he, currently broke having had to pay a very large HMRC tax bill). I’m also good at turning ideas into reality, but I am much less good at coming up with ideas myself – probably not handy.

  2. I’d hate to be the one to add to your depression, but:


    My advice: pick on a single issue you care about and stick with it, even when your friends say you’re becoming borderline obsessional. Don’t take the troubles of the world on your shoulders, at least not all the time. Try to figure out what your strengths are, play to them, and work on teaming up with others who have complementary strengths. Don’t try to do it all alone. Have fun.

  3. french derek

    Do what Jean Quatremer does in France. Get your sources organise so they feed you all sorts of juicy “inside” stuff (politicians are always backbiting – eg the Brown/Darling affair). The write up a clever, taunting blog piece about it. Respond quickly to online comments, etc.

    And then, you’ll get yourself talked about, noticed, “sounded out”, etc. And you might – just might – be able to influence senior politicians – and hence, some of the daft things they do!

  4. helena de groot

    dear jon,

    i loved this post, although there is not a lot of loving going on, of course 😉

    i’d suggest you use your anger to run the kind of campaigns (online and off) that entice so many people (like you atheist buses). make them furious, sarcastic, funny, eye-catching, and dripping with vitriol.

    and for optimism, can i suggest economics? (i know, now is not the time)
    technology? maybe you can develop your tech skills further, your network savvy-ness, give talks, participate in events that make you believe in things again.

    after all, political democracy is having a hard time (http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15270960) but grassroots, web-based democracy is flying higher than ever (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/02/ff_google_algorithm/all/1)

    good luck


  5. If you find a solution, could you please tell?! (I am ready to join because I thought about opening a lobby firm lobbying just for better politics but I couldn’t figure out who would have an interest in that and give any money.)

    PS.: I know it’s a platitude, but I kind of find it helpful to to be satisfied by small successes because they are what I can influence. Everything bigger depends on so many other people and things – you need a lot of luck and good timing to deliver something big.

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