On Friday, as the UK's election results were announced and it seemed as if just about every politician resigned who didn't have Sturgeon or Cameron as their last name, I watched my Facebook feed turn into the grown up version of what I imagine a 16 year old girl's must have looked like when Zayn Malik left One Direction. Except in this instance, of course, Zayn was not only leaving, but taking with him the good bits of the NHS, disabled people's benefits and that most valuable of all human things, hope. There were tears. There was fury. There was language flying everywhere that would have made an Anglo Saxon proud. The European Court of Rights was invoked at one point. Things got messy.
In the midst of this apparent apocalypse feed, I wanted to be able to offer at least one comforting thought. For many hours, the best I could come up with was that The Bugle put out one of their funniest podcasts to date (you should listen. Some wee happened). But then something else hit me, harder than the door hitting Nick Clegg in the proverbial backside on his way out, and it was this: That what I was seeing- not just in myself and my ordinary, everyday Facebook friends, but also in ordinary every day people everywhere- was passion. Proper, table-thumping, hair-puling, unbridled passion. Something that, in a nation of people who tend to react to things like the emotional equivalent of a Morrissey song, is rare, to say the least.
And this can only be a good thing. Because it's passion that gets s**t done. It's passion, and not grudging indifference, that causes people to take to the streets, to shout loudly, to put their names to campaigns and spread those campaigns like wild fire, in the virtual world and in the actual world.
The recent revolt around Protein World's 'Beach Body Ready' campaign is a great example of how, when enough people get pissed off about something for long enough, there's a tipping point. The advert itself wasn't doing or saying anything that your average women's mag advert does (albeit more subtly) thousands of times a day the world over. But it became the outlet for a whole heap of sick-to-the-back-teeth women fed up of having an ideal rammed down their throats. Other recent examples of public campaigning saw Starbucks paying taxes (gasp) and Dapper Laughs removed from our screens.
And if we can stop corporate tax avoidance in our high streets and misogynistic forces on our TVs, then we can stop those things in our governments, too. It may take more effort, but it's certainly possible. Just think of government policy as that yellow bikini. Unless you voted for them, of course. In which case, get ready to go on a serious, protein-only diet and don't complain to me about the constipation and foul breath.
But for those of us despairing over what's happened, don't give up hope. Let's take action!* Let's not just read about the activities of the parties that we did vote for on May 7th- let's join those parties, have a say in which leaders are elected and help shape their ideology. Let's educate ourselves on the pitfalls of such things as TTIP. Let's join and contribute to those organisations that keep their eyes on unscrupulous- and often clandestine- government legislation and make it public. Organisations like 38 Degrees, Open Democracy, UK Feminista and Sumofus.org (admittedly US focussed, but they have some worthy international campaigns) just to name a few.
Yes, you'll get added to some kind of bleeding heart database. Yes, you will be sent emails by organisations you've never heard of who campaign to give fluffy rabbits to blind Peruvian orphans and you'll feel bad if you don't give them money. And yes, if you're me, you will sometimes huffily delete vast swathes of these emails as you wait anxiously for the one email from a script agent in LA who has taken months to get back to you regarding your pitch. But STAY STRONG, PEOPLE! You have a voice and you can use it.
Even as I write this, there's a voice in my head- a stern, patriarchal voice- that's saying, "Oh, do shut up, Hobbs. Who are you to get all fired up and politically engaged and suggest that everyone does the same, if they aren't already?" But isn't that the point? Isn't that how so many of us feel whenever we get the urge to take on something 'bigger' than us? Small and insignificant? Isn't that why people don't even vote in the first place?**
Isn't this what the politicians bank on?
Despite what the conspiracy theorists say, we do live in a democracy, and a connected one, that thanks to social media is increasingly easy to mobilise. We don't have to watch our beloved NHS get carved up further. We don't have to watch asylum seekers being turned away in their droves. We don't even have to watch the wrong people get elected to lead their parties to defeat. What we do have to do, is to hold onto this passion and ride that energy the way that George Osbourne is riding all over the benefits landscape in his demonic John Deere. Passion feeds off action. Passion needs to be stoked. Passion takes coffee. Passion takes loud music. Just not, for this purpose, Morrissey.
* By taking action, I don't mean protesting against a government that was democratically elected. That happened. Protesting against another five years of Tory rule is as futile as me protesting against never growing taller than 5'3". I mean protest against things that can still be stopped.
**Assuming that it wasn't because Russell Brand got to them first and that they then also didn't get his memo to vote labour, actually.