how i grew to appreciate politics

from evy's notebook

Politics has often been a topic I've felt completely uneducated on and disinterested in. My parents didn't teach me much about what was going on in the world or about various political ideologies, and it took me a while to understand why I would even want to know about those things. And once I wanted to know more about politics, it took even longer to find an unintimidating way to learn.

I didn't like history class because the content was dry and the tests were hard to memorize details for. I didn't appreciate news because I didn't have much context around who people were or what had already been going on, and it was so distant from my day-to-day life. I knew I lived in a country that did "democracy", and didn't understand how learning about things like communism would apply to my life. I was lucky to live a fairly privileged life, and didn't spend much time thinking about the ways the systems I was living in harmed people.

In high school and university, I learned more about feminism and queer issues. I learned about systemic inequality. I learned how I could more inclusively interact with people or run events. Some of the people discussing these issues were also talking about actions the government was taking, or about groups like "neolibs" and "antifa" -- but I had a much harder time following those conversations. When I looked up unfamiliar terminology, it was usually just defined in terms of other terminology that I also didn't understand.

There were two main events that motivated me to learn more about politics. One was the Black Lives Matter resurgence in 2020, which motivated me to read books and articles, learn history, and explore ideas like prison abolition and mutual aid. The reading wasn't any easier than before, but I pushed through and learned what various terms meant, and I did so with the support of friends who were also doing the work to learn. The second event was when I spent a lot of 2021 researching community homes with a friend and exploring strategies to build resilient communities. We learned about decision-making strategies, ways to avoid centralization of power, and the ways that people in groups might be incentivized to hurt each other. I realized that politics didn't just apply to the way a country was run, but also the way houses are run, and the way my workplace was run. It turned out that politics was very relevant to many things I enjoyed thinking about such as community-building, relationships, and power and influence. I started to learn more about leftist ways to relate to the spaces I directly interacted with, and I found this much more inspiring than learning about politics for pure interest's sake.

I had a lot of trouble finding resources that were easy for me to understand, so I want to share a few I particularly enjoyed:

Abolish Work

I picked this up this short read with lots of pictures at an anarchist bookstore. It taught me a lot about the restaurant industry, but also class and labour politics in general. You can read the pdf of this book here.

Kickstart Union Oral History Podcast

I don't listen to podcasts much, but I found this one incredibly engaging. It was neat to me to see how a lot of the steps and challenges of unionizing at a workplace, discussed in this podcast, mirror the politics of other groups coming together to fight elites for their rights.

The Dispossessed

A novel about a world founded by anarchists, a man who grew up there, and his experiences on that world as well as on a visit to an Earth-like world. This book showed me how different a society could look with different politics, and it was not shy about describing the flaws of the anarchist's world alongside its more wonderful qualities.

Two Cheers For Anarchism

I'm only a couple chapters in, but I've been really enjoying the ideas discussed in this book, and they've mostly felt approachable to me. I appreciate the way the author discusses what anarchism is often about: "cooperation without hierarchy or state rule", "confidence in spontaneous cooperation and reciprocity", "preference, in the long run, for the honest mistakes of the working class over the wisdom of the executive decisions of a handful of vanguard party elites".