Last night I travelled an hour south to Queensland Parliament House for a forum put on by the Queensland Fabian Society entitled The British Election and the Future of Progressive Politics, by Senior Lecturer in Political Science Dr Andrew Hindmoor. It was a fantastic and engrossing talk that I got a lot out of mainly because at this exact point in my PhD I’m doing a comparative study between the ALP and British New Labour. I came home, scribbled down copious amounts of notes, and really felt as if despite the two hour round trip I really got something out of it. To me, going to these types of political forums runs a close second to going a gig. As Hindmoor told the story of witnessing one of Blair’s landmark speeches some 15 years before, one thought raced across my brain ‘Fuck, I wish I was there, that would have been awesome!’
So on the long journey home I had plenty of time to think about what it means for me to be involved in politics. No, I am not talking about the biographical reason why, I could recite in my sleep. More important than that, how has my involvement in politics become such a part of who I am? Why do I choose a passion that is so detested by the general public?
It’s one thing to be a cripple, or a young political operative, but to be both I would assume is entirely unique. When I first joined the ALP at the age of 19, I walked into my local branch meeting, and I am quite certain there was not anyone born after 1960. And yet I knew this was a step I had to take, so despite my trepidation I dove in head first attended all the meetings I could, and soaked in all the knowledge I could like a sponge. I knew that the ALP with my holy place, a place of comradeship, a place to practice the marvellous activity known as politics, and although sometimes I question the direction of the party, or the decisions it makes, my undying love for the party, or the art of politics will never be questioned.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I made that choice. I was on Year 11 camp, and although I loved the academic side of high school, I absolutely hated the social side with a passion. Everyone’s favourite time of camp was the time that they got to choose their own activity (ie. Crack on to their object of affection, continuing to act like a dickhead that they always were, or socialising within their various cliques) I struggled to find things to do because I was unwilling and unable to pursue these activities. However, I had a crush on a girl from the moment I had laid eyes on her 18 months before. Camp would be my chance to get to know her socially. Free time on the last night had arrived, she sees me, smiles my way, eyes gleaming in her typical fashion ‘Hey, why don’t you come hang with us?’ I, stop, pause, mind ticking over and then say ‘Gee thanks, but this is the only chance I’ve had to read my book all week’. I turned and walked away, my fate, as I knew it defined by that tiny moment.
Hardly anyone understands what living a life that involves eating, sleeping and breathing politics actually means. Further, it seems to most that the fact I chose this life voluntarily is equally baffling. I don’t go to parties and I don’t get drunk, As one person described it: ‘You’ve got a mind of a fifty year old, trapped in the body of someone half his age.’ Others are less kind, a long lasting friendship ended when a person I regarded as a close confidant told me my ‘life was boring’ because I was working on my Honours thesis and helping out on a State Campaign. My response: ‘One day I will change the world and when that day comes years from now, you’ll still be a bitter and twisted cow.’ The friends I have had since may not understand my passion for all things political, but they get that I love it, and they respect me because of it.
My mentor in the ALP has often theorised that in order for me to have a successful romantic relationship that person must share my undying passion for politics. I certainly see his point as he and his wife both share my obsession for politics and also share a love for one another that I have not seen in any couple, besides my own parents. It is also true that politics is brutal on relationships. Yet if my romantic entanglements and politics collide I think I will regard it as some sort of happy accident. It seems there will be two true tests that any potential partner has to overcome. Can you cope with the crippleness? Do you believe in ‘Solidarity Forever’? Only time will tell.