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Being Apolitical in 2020

The impact that humans have had on Earth is both inspiring and frightening. 2020 has only just begun, and the world has already been through hell: the Australian bushfires, the spread of Coronavirus (and subsequently, the increase in racism), and in my country, mass protests against the government, to name a few instances of chaos.

In Australia, ongoing bushfires have destroyed over 7.7 million hectares of land – a consequence of man-induced climate change –, killing 33 and destroying thousands of homes. In mainland China, the Coronavirus has killed 1,770 people and infected around 70,000; across the world, it has led to an increase in racism and hate speech against East Asians. Similarly, in my country, India, dissent is being actively suppressed by the state and violence against students has reached its peak. These are only a few of the issues that our world is plagued with today; and although some might argue against it, all of them are political at their core – which is why I’m perpetually perplexed when people around me proudly declare that they are “apolitical.”

Choosing to be apolitical is not a virtue. It does not make you easy-going or “cool”; rather, it is an assertion that you are uncaring of the happenings around you, which is reflective of what our society has morphed into. Being apolitical is an immense privilege stemming largely from class and power structures in place in society, of which you are probably at the top. Political “neutrality” is, in actuality, political apathy – which is a political stance in itself. All of us at King’s are privileged, there’s no question about that; but what matters is whether we can check our privilege and act upon it for the better, rather than living inside our bubble of night-outs and Instagram pictures.

The personal is political. Every little thing we interact with – be it at the personal, familial level or at the more public level – has a political kinship, and every choice we make has a systemic impact. Being political, thus, doesn’t only mean actively participating in partisan politics; it also means engaging with society in a way that gives adequate recognition to the power structures at play. Moreover, disengaging from politics and adopting an “apolitical” mindset makes us complicit in the dehumanisation that others are standing against. For example, if you choose to be a silent witness to sexism, homophobia, classism or casteism, you are complicit in their perpetuation. And if you think that you don’t need to be political – that you don’t need to speak out against certain situations because they have no effect on you –, you are ignorant, and in large part to blame for the causation of those situations.

I can only say this: 2020 has endured enough. We need to make a change, and the only way to do so is to take a stance and speak out against the injustices that are being perpetrated in the world. Talk about climate change. Talk about human rights. Talk about our representatives: Bolsonaro, Putin, Modi and Trump, to name a few. Check your privilege and question the dominant narrative.

The world around you is burning; speak up. Ignorance is not bliss.

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