Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sport of Politics

Some people are into politics the way other people are into sport. For the former, a General Election is the World Cup/Olympics/Euros all rolled into one glorious day of voting. But for people not into politics - just as for people not into sport - the hijacking of the airwaves, pubs and casual conversations by all the talk about the big day and whose going to win can be tedious indeed.

The appeal of politics is pretty much the same as sport: it's a knock out competition, a zero-sum game in which you're either a winner or a loser - though without the compensation of a runners up prize in the case of politics. Appealing, of course, if you're into that sort of thing.

Funny enough - though it might be hard to believe from the growing crescendo of speculation about when we're going to have a general election let alone whose going to win - an awful lot of people aren't really into politics. The European Social Survey in 2014 showed that 29% of Irish adults are 'not at all interested' in politics, the second highest level of 'political ennui' in Europe after the Czech Republic, and twice the average of the countries surveyed.

Nor does it stop there: fewer than 5% of Irish adults have 'worked in a political party or action group in the past 12 months'. Unchanged in more than a decade. Indeed, only a third of adults 'feel closer to a particular party than all other parties', also well below the average in the countries surveyed. In contrast, in 2014 40% of Irish adults 'attend religious services apart from special occasions' at least once a week or more often, 54% attend at least once a month or more often (only Poland has a higher level of religiously active adults).

There are ten times as many people 'actively engaged' in religion in Ireland nowadays as in party politics; and yet we're told it's the churches that are 'out of touch' and 'in crisis'.

The difference, of course, is that - every four years or so - we get to put a number in a box opposite  the picture of a person we didn't choose from a party we don't belong to who, if elected, will vote for policies we may not agree with.  It is a terrible system - except for all the alternatives (or so they say).

Enjoy the match.

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