How much is politics worth to you?

Doc Searls points to and posts extracts from an interesting article I haven’t had a chance to read yet. But the following got me thinking:

In the end Americans wanted to be consumers. And they were willing to pay a great deal to be consumers. This is an economic trade off the hours that people have spent skiing and reading porn and watching television and mowing the lawn that they would otherwise have spent being involved in community and government, and feeling responsible for the consequences. However, the question is is that free time worth $16 dollars an hour ­ because that is what the ordinary person is paying for it. Watching an hour of Law and Order or 24 might be amusing. But is it worth $16/hour. The answer for a long time, for the majority of Americans, was “yes”.

Now it is becoming “no”.

It’s an interesting perspective – that our want for pursuing leisure activities is responsible for the decline in political benefits flowing to us. I often complain about the decisions of government or actions of corporations, but apart from my soap box (i.e. this weblog), what am I doing about it? Well – in the past I used the excuse “I don’t have time for that” – I was too busy with music, Xbox, DVDs, movies, socialising, smoking pot, drinking – many, many things that got in the way of civic involvement. (I did try a few things – volunteering for Amnesty International, and donating to them when that didn’t work – but not much in the grand scheme of things).

I think there are two additional factors at play when thinking about the lack of civic engagement – 1. most people don’t know how to engage (what options are available) and 2. we don’t feel that our actions will achieve anything. There’s probably more – any thoughts?

I don’t agree that the answer is now becoming “no” – I think that some people are wanting to engage in the process more, though I don’t think it’s a majority. Perhaps it’s those other two factors stopping many folks from jumping into the civic process when they get a “bee in their bonnet” about something (be it WorkChoices, refugees, the war on Iraq, or whatever issue someone is passionate about).

Certainly, back when I was thinking about what I could do, I didn’t feel I had many options – working for an NGO was one of them (which I’m now doing). And if it wasn’t for my job, I don’t know how much I’d really be doing – I feel very fortunate to be in a position where my “day job” is (hopefully) working towards a better future. If I wasn’t here, what would I be doing? I honestly don’t know…