My first year has been somewhat of a stereotype; studying hard in the hope of getting off to a good start, joining a multitude of societies, and getting politically revved up as is expected of students – particular in the wake of a General Election. It is kind of bizarre that we are often portrayed as skipping 9am lectures and rocking up to 3pm ones still in our pyjamas, unshowered and half asleep, but also as idealistic revolutionaries. Albeit, misguided ones who haven’t enough experience of the ‘real world’ to understand that equality is an impossibility and capitalism an inevitability.
A relative once told me that I may begin on the left side of the political spectrum, but aging and family and a tired cynicism combined with a growing self-interest would drive me further and further to the right until I was blue in the face with rants about taxes.
Perhaps he will prove to be quite correct and a 45 year old me will read this blog in 26 years’ time and laugh at my childish optimism. But for now, my only observation from the result has been that there is a very obvious divide in the electorate at the moment. There are the winners and the losers. And there are gracious ones and sore ones in each party but the latter are, of course, far more vocal. The response has been shaped by the same factors that moulded the election campaigns: money and fear. The rich want to keep their money and the poor cannot afford to lose any more. We are being warned that everyone wants it; immigrants, Europe, and of course the opposition.
A party that is renowned for protecting the interests of their often wealthier supporters has won. I am not going to argue whether that is right or wrong despite having strong opinions on the matter. The ballots have been counted and the government has been chosen. What I will say, is that the global financial crisis was as a result of greed and self-interest and its catastrophic results are still motivating government policy today. Consequently, the welfare system is facing £12bn of cuts over the next five years in an attempt to stabilise the economy. There are plenty of people up and down the country who will be unaffected and the result is a victory for them but there are millions of others that will fear the result and its implications.
I do not come at this from a political angle; like I said, the decision has been made and that will not change for at least five years. If there is one principle that I support as much as equality of treatment, it is democracy and I am not about to go back on my pre-result line that we should use the right to vote secured for us by our predecessors (including the Suffragettes). We must all learn to respect the decision even if we cannot agree with it. I understand that this result is cause for celebration for those who wanted a Conservative government but a gracious winner retains compassion and empathy for the side that has lost out. I do not come at this from a political angle but one of humanity. There are a whole range of backgrounds at the University of Sheffield and increasing our understanding and appreciation for each and every one makes us better people. Do not alienate people based on their privilege. The luck of which family we are born into affects so many aspects of our lives already without it causing tensions between people on a daily basis. Whoever you are, extend your kindness to others because self-interest is not a principle that can ever be universalised – as the global financial crisis demonstrated. And it is far more rewarding to use your privilege, fortune or even just time to help others than to dedicate it all solely to yourself.