First and foremost, I am a student of German. However, it is politics in German history, culture, and society that consistently holds my interest and intellectually excites me. One current political issue causing a tidal wave of change in German politics is the refugee crisis. Angela Merkel, in particular, is under increased scrutiny due to her stance on refugees, and the supposed links between this influx of people in Germany and events publicised within and beyond Germany. This includes the numerous attacks on Women at New Year’s Eve in Cologne and the rise of far-right marches; both are perceived to be contributing to the increasing popularity of the Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) political party, with fears that this once euro-sceptic party could mutate into something more sinister.
I was watching a recent TV appearance by Merkel and something she said on her responsibility to tackle the crisis really struck a chord with me: “We, as politicians, are given the task of making sense of difficult developments”. To me, this is the very essence of why we have politics. Last year, in the lead up to the General Election, I attended a debate hosted by Rick Edwards on whether Westminster works for us. Organised by the Guardian newspaper and University of Sheffield’s Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, I walked away with a fetching beer mat on which I could scrawl:
And I stand by that claim: politics provides us spaces in which we discuss, debate and disagree on issues in order to make sense of our world. Our politics are our understanding of the world, whether socially or economically focused, whether I agree with you or not. We support certain political parties because we share their guiding principles, which help us find reason in a world of uncertainty, chaos and surprises.
And with almost six years of experience at university now under my belt, I can tell you there is no better time and place to start to make sense of the world! Independence, getting to know yourself and trying new things translates either to a youthful dalliance which you come to be embarrassed by, or embosses a way of thinking that influences you for the rest of your life. University is where you start to parse the world and start to form your politics.
And with just 100 days until the referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union, there is no better time to start to try and understand the difficult world that surrounds us. The Students’ Union will be campaigning that we remain in the EU. However, if you want to engage with topics broader than just the impending decision on Europe, or want a less student-focused opinion on the proceedings, then you could try the Festival of Debate. It is a great city wide event, supported by both of the cities’ universities and numerous other local organisations, which aims to help all citizens of Sheffield feel more informed about politics and, most importantly, get people discussing and debating issues that affect everyone in today’s society. Politics is not just a subject of study or career. It is something we possess as individuals who make decisions and is something we should show more interest in, if only to help us make sense of our bizarre world.