My name is Patrick and I’m politically illiterate. You are too.
Talking politics often feels like a personal health hazard. Unless we can learn to understand our own roles in a dysfunctional system, there’s no chance of fixing it. Come learn with me.
“Let’s start with the term “politics”. I like the definitions of British political theorist Bernard Crick, who asserts thatInstead, Crick identifies three parts in politics: deciding who gets what, when and how; the exercise of power; and ensuring the welfare of whole communities.
On to “political illiteracy”. By this, in my case, I mean the flawed state of my political knowledge and the political behaviours which are its consequence. My definition of illiteracy, in other words, is not just about how I think politically; it’s about what I do and how I act in everyday life.
I was shocked. I wondered: how could world-leading “democracies” dodge the climate question at no political cost?
Too often, talking politics – whether it’s elections, or ending poverty, climate crisis, or a hundred other things besides – feels like a personal health hazard. Do you know that feeling?
In this series for The Correspondent, I will question the causes of our shared political illiteracy and explore potential remedies. Is better literacy in fact learnable? How might it transform the way we talk and do politics? That doing part will mean trying to plug the gaps in both our knowledge and our emotional skills.
On my office wall is a calligraphy that reads: “Peace in oneself, peace in the world”.
Until we can better understand how politics works, including our own parts in its dysfunction, there’s no chance fixing it. No one escapes here – not from its causes, nor its effects – though many suffer more than others.”
Patrick Chalmers is a journalist and film maker focused on making political structures truly democratic. He worked at Reuters for 11 years then wrote Fraudcast News (2012). He directs All Hands On, a short-documentary series on ordinary people doing radical democracy.