privileged politics

In the past few weeks, I’ve taken up a new theatre criticism course and been trying to hunt down items from the relevant bibliography. Unfortunately, as with most academic books, these are ridiculously expensive. And you can tell they’re just in it for the profit (or lack thereof) because local non-academic bookshops sell them at half the price the publisher does. Talk about privilege…

Also, they can’t possibly be that ‘good’ (as in, useful or progressive) seeing as none have been translated into English – meaning at least half the Western world has found no need for them.

Speaking of privilege, I’ve been trying to keep my own in check. I was watching a documentary the other day about Malala, the girl from the Swat Valley famous for standing up to and being shot by the Taliban. In it, her father mentions that, for him, keeping quiet in the face of injustice would be a fate worse than death. I found myself thinking I should do that more often – speak up when I feel something is wrong. On Sunday I turned up (briefly) at the elections for the local heart transplant society of which I’m supposed to be a member (just because I have an artificial heart, not because I wish to actively participate). I really didn’t want to go, didn’t want to partake in it at all, didn’t even want to vote in their elections. Then I got thinking: for centuries, people have fought for the right to speak up, to be able to express themselves through voting and such, and all I can do is toss that privilege aside? Who am I to invalidate all that in seconds?

On the other hand, one of the tools provided to the West by democracy is the right to decline – to abstain or cast a blank vote. But in a situation where the democratic principles have been perversely abused, does that help at all? Here’s a thought experiment: if 60 or 70% of the population abstains from voting, won’t the rest (that is, the minority) just end up making the decisions for everyone else? Even if that vote is invalid, how will railing against the system only to distance ourselves from it help at all? It seems better to at least turn up and fire blanks (pun intended) than not turn up at all.

That’s not to say we should buy into political campaign promises in any way. Just look what happened to Greece’s Syriza – they got elected by giving false promises and have basically reconfirmed the status quo of politicians not fulfilling anything, giving the people further cause to complain about . Of course, they peppered it with the Greece-against-the-world campaign which isn’t helped by

. I suppose you might say “who in politics doesn’t give false promises to get votes?”. Good question. I’ve realised we spend so long discussing what ‘should be’ (or what we hope it should be) rather than what is. Then again, if there was no hint of vision, I think we’d all be severely depressed. The only problem is that for most politicians*, that vision tends include how to stay in power. As the proverb says:

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

I’ve realised that I’m having a hard time believing in the ideals of democracy. In theory, it’s a lovely idea: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The major problem is that while there are a lot of people who do put the needs of the collective above their own, there are equally loads who don’t. There’s a particularly hilarious tale from Chekhov about how we humans taught devils a thing or two with our evil deeds, however I can’t find any trace of it anywhere in English. I’m starting to think maybe the Greek translator made it up (or simply botched the job so badly). On the upside, I found a site with all his works!

What I find particularly troubling is how people seem to fluctuate between two extremes: intense pity for the refugees and a strong contempt and suspicion of gypsies (yes, there are nomadic people who currently live in Athens). Sure, they’re not one and the same, but isn’t that pretty much selective xenophobia? Or is it just that we’re fine with supporting the refugees because they have nowhere else to go, but because gypsies live like they do by choice we can swear and curse at them all we want?

Just sayin’…

God, nearly a whole year in Greece and already I’ve started to assimilate the way of thinking… >.<

This post got way out of hand! I had started with the intention of writing updates about what I’m reading.


*let’s be honest, ‘most’ might be an understatement. Still, I like to think it’s likely people actually start off  with honest intentions and lose something along the way.


5 thoughts on “privileged politics

  1. It’s often surprised me how lightly people in this country take their right to vote. I remember having an argument with a colleague who said she never bothered to vote, and reminding her (pompously and totally ineffectively) that women had chained themselves to railings, endured force-feeding and, in one case, thrown themselves in front of the King’s horse and been mangled, specifically so that she, as a woman, could have the vote. And yet you see and hear some of the eejits being interviewed on TV or expressing their rambling, illogical views about migrants, gypsies or whatever – and you do wonder whether the voting system isn’t better off without them.

    I’m not too familiar with Chekhov – he may have written any number of stories about the Devil. It wouldn’t be The Shoemaker and the Devil, would it?:

    (Sorry, I don’t know how to insert links into comments, and make them work. It should light up and go blue, but it hasn’t. Rosie 🙂 )

    1. Exactly! Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. Admittedly, though, it’s hard not to be disgusted with the way things are (I find it hard to believe that’s just disillusionment that is “part of growing up” and “part of life” – surely somewhere sometime there was something that inspired people to take pride having a voice? Hopefully we don’t have to go back to BC Athens to find that…).

      No, it’s not The Shoemaker and the Devil – though that is equally didactic! I must admit, I’m enjoying Chekhov quite a bit! 🙂 So far, I like his wit and his versatile style. The book I’m reading is rightly titled ‘the unpredictable Mr. Chekhov’. Unfortunately, it’s in Greek.I wonder there’s an equivalent English one…

      1. I expect you’ve already tried Amazon? I sometimes find obscure second-hand books on there, with a bit of trial-and-error searching. Mind you, they’re usually priced at £9,999 or something.

      2. Actually, I haven’t tried Amazon! I’ll admit I’ve been trying to avoid it… Besides, it seems there are loads of sites with free Chekhov, – the one you shared, for example, or Project Gutenberg ( ). Aside from hunting down free ebooks, more recently I’ve taken to ordering from

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