My one main regret when I was younger was that I couldn’t go to university as a young person and felt I missed out on all that intellectual stimulation and debate, forming ideologies, finding out who I was as a person. Instead I went headfirst into marriage and children, which in itself was very rewarding, but I always hankered for that part of me.
Its only in the last couple of years as I started my PhD was I ‘forced’ to find out where I stood politically – I was no longer allowed to get away with the line of ‘ what does it matter what they say, once they get into power they will forget’. To me, politics and politicians were from an alien world full of elites that only bothered with us when they needed our votes – and to be honest, that still rings true in most cases across the UK.
As I embarked on this journey, I started reading and found that I am what is classed as ‘centre-left’ and I am a ‘liberal feminist’. What I have discovered is that I am passionate about the inequalities across the UK, especially highlighted in all areas outside London, where there is only proportional representation at Westminster and the voices of the minority are oppressed and discarded. The amount of times I have switched on the telly to see our elected representatives behaving in ways that would never be allowed at nursery school, let alone to the world via television. Surely, I cannot be the only one that is uneasy at the level of debate and representation of the constituents voices, once power is achieved?
I am sure they all started with the intention of being good public servants – as far as I am concerned, its your and my taxes that subsidise their lifestyles, and we want to see results from the grassroot level up of improvement in our society. I don’t see it happening. What I see is power and money (via contracts for cronies) being distributed within groups of individuals and it being passed backward and forward without any real change occurring in society apart from the black hole emerging from becoming a society that saved to one that wishes to bankrupt itself through spending beyond its means. Who benefits? The elite.
As we have hurtled towards becoming a consumer society, privatising national institutions, having ‘celebrities’ such as Kim Kardashian reality programmes, this continual dumbing down -what are the lessons we are teaching ourselves and our following generations?
What I have seen over the last couple of years with the Yes Scotland and pro-independence movement, and it makes me so proud to be part of something that will go down in history as one of the biggest grassroot campaigns Scotland and the rest of the UK has ever seen – where people are standing shoulder to shoulder voicing their dissatisfaction at how their country has been run, and that they have this chance to do things differently, make our elected representatives more accountable to us, the people at the grass root level. Having my faith restored by being around people who genuinely care about society, especially our most vulnerable and marginalised. Recognising and wanting to implement our responsibility in making it a better society for everyone, not just those at the top, but those in the middle and bottom too. We all count. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different!
I have become an activist and I am pleased to say it has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I am grateful to my Professor for telling me at that particular juncture ‘to go out and get myself a political backbone’ and then get back to him.
N N Riaz