08/05/2015

You Don't Have To Be An Expert To Discuss Politics

There is one issue which has been particularly bothering me this election. It's not that newspapers have been blatantly supporting parties and encouraging their sometimes impressionable readerships to vote for said party, it's not that the Conservatives won a majority government, it's not even that the I was waiting 5 hours for South Thanet's declaration, or that Farage's resignation was five months late. 

My issue has been with social media absolutely slating and tearing into others who are expressing a political opinion. Take these examples: "since when were you a political expert?" Or "can't be arsed with all my Facebook friends thinking they're experts on politics" or "no-one cares about your political views" - this has been my issue.

Since when did anyone have to be a qualified expert to express an opinion on anything? "Oh I really love chocolate cake, much more than Victoria Sponge" WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? MARY BERRY? It sounds absolutely stupid. You don't have to agree with anyone's political views - that's the beauty of being part of a democracy, it means that we have a right to vote for the party we would like to see in power, and we also have a right (or a freedom) to express publicly our opinion on who should run the country. 

The General Election is a time which affects everyone in this country - every single one of us. It is therefore incredibly likely that you might see Joe Bloggs from down the road, who has never expressed a political opinion to you before, publicly declaring his support for the Green Party. Or Lucy Smith sharing her views on UKIP. It is an election in which every single person over the age of 18 in the United Kingdom has the right to choose who they would like to see in power - therefore, to make that decision they are clearly going to have an opinion. Their opinion may be the same as yours, or it might not be, but it is certainly not for you to dictate that people must now be qualified experts in order to speak about a certain topic.

If that were the case nobody would be able to have a conversation about anything. "Hi, how are you James?" "Hi Clare, I feel really happy actually! You?" "Who do you think you are James? A psychologist? You're in no position to discuss emotional wellbeing and feelings!" 

It sounds absolutely ludicrous when you apply the same logic to any other area of interest. Just because somebody has never expressed an opinion on immigration before, or you've never heard them discussing education, does not mean that you can dismiss their views as naive or stupid. It is arrogant to presume that someone is not worthy of expressing an opinion merely because you have not heard their opinion expressed before. How do you think change happens? It happens by exploring new ideas, engaging new people and discussing new conversations. Not by dictating that anyone who speaks about politics must have studied a degree in the subject, or must be registered to a party and be handing leaflets out. 

Politics is not defined by politicians, or by live TV debates. Politics is defined by the day to day opinions that individuals have about various things which may be affecting their lives. In a country encompassing freedom of speech, and a country which gives everybody the right to vote, if you think that expressing a political opinion requires expertise - then you really need to get off your high horse.

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