Throughout this build-up to Malta’s snap election, I have been more conscious than ever of our political reality. By travelling to different countries doing social work, I have come to understand, appreciate and recognise the importance and impact of a country’s politics, pervasive through all aspects of society but especially affect the little man.
For this reason, I could no longer justify not caring about politics because it was too negative or too complicated to understand. It became my duty – as a person, a citizen, a social worker and someone who cares beyond the end of my nose – to get informed and learn. I left school with little understanding of our voting and political systems, which I feel is a failure of our education system. I still feel that it all goes beyond my head and that perhaps I don’t understand it enough like other people do. However, I took an observational approach to this election build-up and I can say that I am pleased to be slowly forming my own opinions.
Similarly, I know many young people who are not die-hard party followers. They are socially curious, questioning and independent thinkers who feel lost in who to believe in. In general to all of life, I feel that extremes make us lose out on a lot because we are blinded by our own emotions. Making political parties part of our identities and core beliefs result in criticism of these being very hurtful and threatening to the person which is why we can see many emotional reactions to a political discussion.
While biases will always be present and we should be aware of them, we need more critical, objective thinkers. Critical thinking is a skill that can be utilised in every aspect of life. Here is a list of suggestions to help you in your decision-making process as the election nears.
Be aware of our biases and influence
Very often we may have been raised in a family that has strong political opinions and experiences. We may have been taken to mass meetings or heard our parents and family members talk very passionately about what, in their opinion, is right or wrong. Our family want to raise us in the best way possible and that means sharing their values with us and guiding us. Seeing adults we trust and rely on speak a certain way will certainly influence our own opinions. At some point, however, as an adult, you must decide what your own values are and how you will approach decision-making.
Be aware of your media sources
Media sources can be highly influential. At this point, it can be pretty clear to understand which media sources lay where. Although a completely objective media source may be extremely difficult right now, make sure you are gaining a holistic view by gathering as much information as possible. Read and view all media sources to know the different viewpoints so that you can have an informed opinion. Don’t give up on understanding the truth. The truth is most likely somewhere in between.
Think critically, objectively and listen to your instincts
When you receive some information, stop and think objectively. Do not allow emotions to take over – if an emotion comes, recognise it, acknowledge it, try to understand where it comes from. Put it aside for that moment and continue to think about the information at hand. What are the sources of the information? What are they saying exactly? Is this is a general issue with politics or is it particular to a party?
What do your instincts say? Instincts can help guide your moral and ethical compass, to understand when something feels right or wrong i.e. in line with your values.
What more do you need to do before forming your own opinion conclusively?
It is okay not to understand the full written jargon on articles and spoken on TV. Take a learning approach. Don’t give up and push it aside like it is unimportant. Don’t assume you understand it based on the slant given to it by a political leader. The facility of the internet gives you an opportunity that is not available to everyone in the world. Don’t understand the terms being used? Google them or refer to a professional that does!
Observe discussions – among friends, colleagues, family members and in public. Listen to what is being said, how things are being translated to the people. You may hear a variety of things here and observe influence and biases that shape how information is received. Don’t react, just observe and listen.
Engage in discussion
There is nothing like engaging in discussions to help your learning and opinions. We tend to have this fear of ‘talking politics’ because it will cause a negative reaction. This may be true with some people so you may wish to choose the appropriate moments. Discussion forms opinions. The issue occurs when discussion ceases and debates/attacks take over. That is where your respect and skills in the discussion are needed. Hopefully, you have some people in your lives whom you feel comfortable broaching this subject with. Even if not, remember we learn better from people who are different to us!
My final word to you is to vote. It doesn’t matter to me who you vote for or how you decide to vote. However, voting is a right that we are privileged to have and I would want every citizen in our country to respect it and utilise it, no matter their decision.
This is the reality of the situation our country is in right now and we have a duty to do our part, whatever it may be. Disengaging from politics and from this decision is not helpful to you, me, our children and people – although I understand the temptation. We must do whatever we think is best. We must be active citizens who care.