Politics. If my suspicions are correct that word has prompted a yawn so big your eyes can’t even focus on this sentence properly. You’re back? Good, stay with me now for a second and I promise that, by the end of this, politics might just hold more appeal than the adorable kitten video you likely have open in your other tab. Trust me.
Ireland has never much been a country for the young. Given that every few decades it haemorrhages its bright and educated young people as they bleed off to clot the shores and bars of the UK, Australia and Canada. And even as our country pushes us away we refuse to resist. We refuse to stake our rightful claim. Yet everything we want, be it marriage equality, good jobs, decent healthcare, must be achieved by being politically active. For a decent harvest, you have to work the soil of democracy.
And since we live in the internet age, you don’t even have to put down your pot noodle to get politically savvy even if you don’t know your Áras from your elbow. So, here are five handy sites that'll have you waxing lyrical on Churchill and Chompsky in no time.
As anyone with a semi-functioning facebook feed understands, people love quizzes. People want to know: “What Eastenders character is your ideal lover?” or “What colour is your personality?” or “What table condiment are you?”. But if you don’t know your Left from your Right, try Political Compass to figure out where you stand on the ideological spectrum. For five minutes you state how much you agree with some statements on issues from social welfare to drug laws. Then you’ll be plotted out on a graph based on your positions and you can compare your position to those of famous figures such as Stalin, Gandhi or Thatcher as well as figuring out which political parties at home and abroad you are most closely aligned with. Most of the questions are easily understood and can be answered relatively quickly. There’s even a handy Facebook app for sharing your results so you can see which friends are closest to tyrannical dictators. Fun!
In a similar vein, but with a more specifically Irish focus, is Which Candidate. Which Candidate is a questionnaire set up ahead of the local elections by the Department of Politics and Public Administration in UL. It hoped to give people an idea of how their views lined up with local politicians. Sites like these help ensure that people aren’t just voting for who their father voted for, who’ll fix the roads outside or who happens to have the funniest looking moustache. Instead, Which Candidate is a great way to cut through the guff and bluster and get right to figuring out where those greasy, slippery political types actually stand on issues and how near to them you are. While the site in its current form only functions with the Limerick local elections, there are ambitions to scale it to the national level. However, even taking the questionnaire as it stands now could help immensely in figuring out where you might fall in the minefield of Irish politics.
The Irish Times: “Inside Politics” Podcast
Podcasts are our generation’s radio. Only with less Ryan Tubridy and fireside chats and more crazy conspiracy nuts talking about how the lizard people are harvesting our spleens to power their spaceships. But do a little digging and you’ll find gold, especially when it comes to political discussion. On this front, I highly recommend The Irish Times "Inside Politics" podcast. Released every Wednesday, it provides you with plenty of lively discussion on current day topics involving politicians, public figures and political writers. The conversation is usually straightforward, easy to understand and sometimes even *gasp* witty. And not just to immense bores such as myself who find jokes about the European Fiscal Compact Treaty just hi-larious.
But, of course, it’s not just Irish politics that matter. We’ve always been “closer to Boston than Berlin” and our political conversations reflect this. Chances are even if you’re not much into political ping pong you have some inkling in regards to how you feel about the Iraq war or the Obama administration. As the United States stretches its shadow across the world it’s hard not to be caught up in it as every decision made in Washington reverberates around the world regardless of whether you’re in Limerick or Lebanon. Politifact is a handy little site when it comes to reading about politics in the US. In the primary school nativity play that is politics, sometimes folks fib a bit. Anytime you suspect a politician in the US might not quite be telling the whole truth about his plans to send men to Venus by 2015, Politifact gives you a handy way to sort the wisdom from the waffle when it comes to crazy stats and facts thrown out by politicians.
And central to the understanding of all politics is money. Greenhouse is a great browser extension that tells you what politicians are taking money from where. Some guy who dodged his draft to Vietnam is arguing for putting Ballistic Missiles on the moon? Mouse over and you’ll see he’s getting slipped a shady dollar by weapons manufacturers. Greenhouse is a great way to figure out who’s saying what and whose money they’re taking for it.