I don’t usually like to talk about politics because quite often the issue becomes enmeshed with discussions about politicians; which to me are two different beasties. However today most people tend to vote 1. as their family members have done (fathers, grandfathers and so on) or 2. they vote for a popular candidate (or NOT vote for an unpopular one). Today there seems to be far less consideration of WHAT the candidate stands for or what type of society they intend to create.
I try not to share my political beliefs with most people and so I wont go into great detail about them now, however I would like to make a comment about politics and where it crosses over health and social policy. And I intend to tread carefully so I don’t become confused or misinterpreted.
Firstly, most of you reading this will more than likely be part of a democratic society. I grew up in a democracy and so I will be more familiar about the pro’s and con’s. For me, one of the benefits of such a system is the NOTION of fairness and everyone having a choice about WHO runs the nation and WHAT parties are elected. However whilst that is an advantage it can also be a disadvantage in the following circumstances. Firstly, such a system requires that the voters be socially and politically aware enough so that they can form sound judgements on who and how the country should be run. If the population are not socially or politically minded and have no real understanding of social policies or social justice, than the power to vote is almost meaningless.
In those cases as I just described, elections become more like a ‘popularity’ contest than a legitimate statement on governing and shaping a country, and the legacy of these decisions impact deeply and reach far into future generations.
We have only to look at social media to see what is popular and what the young people of various countries are concerned and focused on. When I think about this the first thing that worries me is “are we living in a time where someone like a Kanye West or Kim Kardashian or a sporting celebrity could be elected to power by sheer popularity?” “What would prevent such a thing from happening?” If a country is known by what it values, what it protects and who it looks up to, then what lays ahead for democracies and the social policies of the future?
The poor, the elderly, the vulnerable and the disabled already suffer from a clear lack of popularity and public focus that it cant help but concern me where the politics of the future will leave us if it comes down to a popularity contest. Unless we help inform and educate each other as to our common worth and value the future may not look very bright for us at all. Already politicians seem intent on whittling away public empathy and portraying the weak and vulnerable as unwanted burdens and instead of maintaining a balance between rights and responsibilities, it focuses on ‘taking from the poor and giving to the rich.’ The gap between the very rich and the very poor grows ever wider and the ‘middle classes’ seem destined to be slowly absorbed at either end of the spectrum; most likely the later.
The ‘Get rich or die trying’ mantra of today’s democracies is where my political beliefs intersects my current health condition. What is to become of the those who, like me, where once tax payers and now, through no fault of my own, may be viewed as mere burdens on society if the governments of today, and tomorrow, keep going down their current course. Stripping away support and demonizing those who have done nothing wrong other than to grow old or get sick.
So what can be done?
I believe that one answer for those of us in democratic countries may lie in our strength of numbers. You see as a subset, for example, the unemployed, there may not be great numbers if unemployment rates are sitting at 15% (15% of the working population). The elderly may not seem like a majority group either (although we are an aging population). The sick, ill and disabled may not appear to have the type of voting power to make a big impression on voting day… but… combined we start looking like a very different demographic indeed and we also start seeing just how many numbers we really represent.
To that end, it is always been my hope that autoimmune sufferers and chronically ill connect with each other, regardless of diagnosis, regardless of medication or prognosis but rather we draw strength and dignity through our unity and respect for each other. If we can continue to reach out and connect to each other, nationally and even globally, than the future for research, respect, recognition and support has a chance to continue. I truly think that we can’t afford not to consider it. We must stop the demonizing of our group and restore the respect and dignity we so richly deserve. Advocacy and raising respect and awareness are ESSENTIAL. We can’t afford to leave our stories untold. We have to push back the tide of doubt and suspicion being cast on us by politicians who would have love to peel away any help or support that we need and deserve.
After all, in a democracy, the role of government has always been to protect and serve the interests of its citizens. ALL its citizens. Whoever takes on these political roles should also be made to fulfill these obligations no matter what party they represent. We have to make sure that this remains their primary role and function and to make sure that these values and ethics are instilled in the generations to come. How governments will treat the most vulnerable and weakest of its countrymen is a sign of its moral and ethical compass and who they are as nations. No matter how sick or disabled we might be, we can still send that message to those in office with our votes.