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March 3, 2014 | by  | in Opinion |
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Ramblings of a Fallen Hack

They seem nice enough, handing out Fruit Bursts and well-designed pamphlets. I’m here to tell you that they aren’t.

This week, Victoria’s politicised youth will stand waving from their trestle tables as part of the University’s Clubs Week. You will approach and sign your name to their clipboard. You will receive an email about an upcoming meeting and – if only for the free pizza – you will attend. Too soon, you’ll be delivering leaflets and telephoning donors and mastering the sass with which you will shout down the other side. Too soon, you will have become a hack.

Don’t worry. I understand. You want to make the world a better place. The problem is that politics does not.

Let’s ignore the inevitable arrogance of politics – the certainty with which hacks stand by their beliefs, the disdain for the deluded who somehow disagree. Let’s pretend you, the undergraduate primarily informed by ranty blogs and parents’ lectures, really know the answers so many have missed.

You still can’t believe you will matter. In 2011, the election was won by 93,000 votes. In 2005, the closest in recent history, Labour beat National by 45,000. That’s a lot of people. To think delivering a few leaflets will change anything is to suffer from megalomaniacal delusion.

You still can’t forget the cowardice. We live under a managerial state where anything that would actually matter is instantly discredited as radicalism. Governments don’t really differ that much – they talk big in opposition, but once in charge they listen to the same bullshitting bureaucrats and the same small-minded focus groups. Idealism cowers in the company of power.

If you want to make people’s lives better, go help in the metaphorical soup kitchen. Do a first-aid course. Volunteer for Women’s Refuge or coach a kid’s football team. Work another job and donate the wages to charity. Spend more time looking after those who need you. It’s easy to make the world better.

But politics is fun. The gossip is fun – the incompetence of some mid-level functionary, the cabinet minister fucking a journalist. Campaigns are fun – military logistics of leafleting, message and data and design. More than anything, it’s nice to know how the world needs to be. To be political is to have a tribe, a pedestal from which you can observe the ignorance of the others. Tribalism is comfort; politics is fun.

It’s easy to assume that enjoyment implies purpose, but that’s not how life works. Go on, sign up and make friends and shout loudly about problems to which only you have the solution. Go on, become a hack. Just don’t pretend you’re doing it for me.

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