Yesterday evening there was a boxing match. I’d been vaguely aware that it was happening but I had no real idea of when or where. Friends on Facebook discussed who they wanted to win and why; people on twitter explained how excited they were about it. This was a big deal, the biggest bout in years or something. But it had passed me by entirely, all the hype and all the buildup; here it was, happening all of a sudden, and I knew next to nothing about it.
I hadn’t gone out of my way to avoid it. I was aware that something was happening, but I’d managed to process it as some kind of wallpaper, a background hum that I didn’t notice. Sure, this match was happening but I’d been able to tune out of all the Froch – Groves excitement and discussion. I even quite like sport, and I like to read about it all the time, but I’d managed to steer my attention away from the boxing. It was just something that I’d been able to get away from. It was going to happen, then it happened, and now it’s over. People are talking about a rematch. I’ll avoid it. It won’t be hard.
I hadn’t deliberately chosen to cross the street away from this event, but it was simple enough to enact an avoiding strategy. And it made me wonder if this is how easy it is to avoid things like elections. I suppose there’s a thought among those of us who “do” politics that things like elections excite other people as much of us, that somehow it’s as interesting to others as it is to us, that even those people who are less interested are somehow interested – at all. But what if the interest really isn’t there? What if the millions of non voters are not not-voting but simply not voting? What if their protest isn’t a protest at all? That it’s not because of – hold on, I’m going to use the d-word – disengagement, but because of a more simple lack of interest? Perhaps people aren’t actively opting out. Maybe they never opted in.
I keep thinking what it would have taken to get me fixated on that boxing match. Probably nothing. True, a relatively major sporting event doesn’t have the same impact on my life as the election of the next government… But then I’m assuming again that I’m interested enough to make that distinction, or able to feel the difference that the election would make to my life. And I’m not so sure everyone can. Or should. Or does. Perhaps the triumph of politics is in doing as little harm as possible so as few people as possible feel the need to make changes. Maybe that’s a greater success than revolution.