I may be biased as a fourth-year politics student who has chosen to go on and do a Masters, but politics is pretty relevant to the world we live in. The word comes from the Greek polis (hence the aptly named Politics, Languages and International Studies department otherwise known as PoLIS) and refers to a human association and the structures used to organise them. Simply put, politics is where we figure stuff out.
Considering that politics is basically about how we collectively handle our problems, it comes as no surprise to say that it influences everything from where you’re able to go on holiday to whether you’re allowed to smoke weed. Politics is even involved in something as simple as the bills you’re paying and whether your scumbag rental agency can get away with holding back your deposit for not getting a professional cleaner. The presence of politics is everywhere around us, often in the smallest of ways. It’s not always about grand elections or declarations of war and it certainly isn’t a realm that should be left to a stratum of society that routinely disregards the importance of their position. In other words, politics should not just be left to politicians, and this is something, I hope, I have successfully argued over the course of my time writing for BathTime. Yet, as my degree rolls to an end and as the bleak mid-winter has shifted to the warm, lazy days of summer, it is clearer than ever to me that there is so much more to life than politics.
This may seem a bit weird, but I’d like to take a brief detour to talk about something that always has me passionate: the gods. I was a Percy-Jackson kid growing up and stories of Zeus and Hermes and the rest of them have always struck me as being pretty cool. As I got a bit older, this childhood wonder with the tales of Greek heroes transformed into a curiosity in Jungian ‘Archetypes’ and Joseph Campbell’s ideas about the Heroic. While ancient myths are usually taught to us as being a way for people to explain the world around us, a more accurate take on the gods is that they are representations of an ideal. Sometimes, these ideals are shared across different cultures. Many of the ‘King of the Gods’ like Indra or Zeus or Odin share some resemblances – they’re ideals of the ascended warrior, a leader that is able to carve out a peaceful domain amidst the chaos of the world they find. Aphrodite becomes the embodiment of Love; Athena of cool, calm, collected Strategy; Ares of manly courage in battle. There are gods to Law and Order but there is one God that – as far as I can see – is unanimously missing. There is no God of Politics.
When you let that sit for a minute, there’s something quite profound there. Not one culture or civilisation managed to find an ideal politics. There’s no specific way that we ought to approach our problems. Some religions had a pantheon of gods while others celebrated a universalist ideal in One God; many celebrated the benefit of law and order but there is no shared view of how to get to those laws. The reason that I think this is relevant is that all of these pantheons and religions and cultures spent their time idealising something else. They told stories of friendship to encourage and stories of enmity to warn. They told stories of valour to inspire and stories of greed to deter. While politics has a say in near-everything that structures our lives, we shouldn’t forget that it is basically, on the simplest level, just a way for us to figure our shit out. And take it from a final year student who has spent their fair share of time figuring shit out in terms of essays and deadlines and the rest of it; when you look back at University, you’ll be thinking about the stupid antics with your friends, the nights spent drinking just slightly too much, the romances and the weekend trips to Cheddar Gorge.
Forgive me if I’m being a bit soppy here but one of the things that I’ve been turning over in my head is how special the last few weeks since finishing assignments have been. From dressing up to go the Roman Baths with my peers to sitting down with my flatmates and watching a 30-minute movie of our highlights from this semester (thanks again Adam!), and having Summer Ball to look forward to, it’s safe to say it has been a special time. Guys that I really didn’t know all that well have become some of my closest companions; awkward conversations about ‘what did you get up to over placement?’ have turned into late-night ponderings about what life has in store for us. There’s a sad side to this, however. Honestly, it’s almost mournful thinking about it. Obviously, I’m going to keep in touch with my close mates but there are all of those wonderful personalities that you half-know. The people you only seem to see at parties; the classmates that you bump into as you’re walking around the city and can chat to; those special individuals that, right as you end university, you have a wonderfully deep conversation with and you come out of it wondering what life would be like if you’d had that conversation at the start of the year or even the semester. It sounds mean to call these people side characters – especially when I know I’m a side character or even just a cameo in their own story – but I think it’s that sense of community, of knowing people in the same context going through basically the same thing as you, that has made the last few weeks so special. Trying to hold on to these fleeting moments is a struggle. You try and take pictures of it all but in so doing, you forget to be present in the moment. Stop to soak it all in and you have nothing but drunken, fading memories with which to look back on. Nonetheless, after the monotony of essays and assignments, there’s a clarity that these moments bring to life that I haven’t found anywhere else.
It’s clear to me that this is what life is about. Politics is important in so many ways yet, in the most important facets of life, it is but a footnote. Perhaps this last message is more for me though I suspect that it might resound with a few of my fellow politics students. As the heat picks up and the cool, fruity taste of a cider seems that much more appealing; as holidays approach and cracking a smile seems that much easier, make sure you soak it in. There will always be someone trying to attract your attention to the next social issue, the next society-breaking problem or world-ending challenge. They may even be earnest in what they’re doing and not just trying to bullshit you for their own gain. Politics is certainly a space where we have the capacity to shape and the change the world for the better. But compared to sitting around at Victoria Park drinking a sickly-sweet drink, getting mildly sunburned and laughing with friends, spending your time worrying about the latest political controversy just doesn’t seem all that important. It’s not hedonistic to go after this either. Done properly, it’s how you really get to appreciate the community that you’re in. On that note, the sun is out, and life is inviting me to live.
Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a Gift,
That’s why it is called the Present
- Master Oogway
I just want to say a word of thanks to the wonderful people at BathTime. From encouraging me to take up this weekly column, to trudging through reams of articles and hurriedly editing pictures that leave my feeble attempts looking like a child’s drawing on a fridge, the team have done a sterling job. My particular thanks are to Bailey for his staggering effort of handling three columnists, his own articles, and university life as well as Lucy for being able to lead BathTime during her final year (a feat that I doubt many are able to truly appreciate and for which she has my utmost respect).
One last thank you to you, the Reader. Whether you’ve liked my Instagram stories or replied to tell me your thoughts; whether you’ve been left enraged by my views or have a newfound appreciation for a given topic, having you spend some of your day reading my ramblings is a humbling and gratifying experience. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I wish you all the best.