"Go vote, people.", I said on Facebook, "I can't vote UKIP out. So do it for me".
The likes rolled in. I hang out with artists, mostly - nobody minded that I had an opinion, self-preserving as it might have been deemed. Recent election was a revelation: realising that I cared, passionately, about the results; that I was involved in this community; that I wanted to see British people change the order (ordeal?) they were under. From any perspective, the change has failed; we only got more of the same. I'm writing "we", even though I did not personally make it happen. Unique perspective: one of, but not one of. I pay taxes, but don't decide.
More of the same was also the order of the day in the Polish presidential election, three days later. I voted for a politician who reflected my views, knowing full-well that he'd never get anywhere (Polish equivalent of voting for the Greens). The three most popular candidates - to my mind, the worst of the lot - are right-wing, right-wing and even more right-wing. One of them is a popular singer, a relatively new kid on the block, but the rethorics he spouts is basically the same, only channeling some social anger. Considering who is left on the battlefield, for the first time in my life I will not vote. (Insert obligatory Russell Brand joke - poor man's ears must have been ringing).
The queue to vote. Photo by: A.M.
The very minute I learned that Tories won the election, I Googled "How to become a British citizen". Then I felt silly. Surely I can't be thrown out, just like that. There's a lot of Polish people in the UK; expelling them all would mess with the economy, big time. But the fear was real. Fear that this new home I found and started making for myself, would now reject me. I went to breakfast and spoke to my housemate, another EU citizen. "Did you Google?" - I asked. No, she had it figured out long time ago, just didn't want to spend £800 (or was it more now? We weren't sure). Now she might decide to pay it. My liberal household (one British, one Commonwealth citizen, two EU) felt the impact of the election; our conversations were somber, subdued, with occasional burst of frustration.
Then I Skyped my Mum and registered online for Polish presidential election. At least I could vote in this one.
Poland and its political sentiments feel further and further away. Yet I make an effort to be involved. 82% of Polish people in Britain voted: that is no mere nostalgia. Is it hope that we can go back? Is it, like in my case, that our families live there? Is it all those lessons in school about being a good citizen and making an impact?
In any case, there was nobody to vote for. Even more than usual. Usually one votes for a "compromise", "lesser evil" candidate. But in the second round, they're both evil.
Is it a sign of democracy, that voting feels like marital duty? Something you have to do and aren't remotely excited about?
On the morning after - morning of Tory victory nobody looked for - I started reading up (lamest lateness excuse ever: "late due to being distracted by election coverage". Unfortunately true.) The biggest takeaway from the election is that I don't know UK. I only know London, and within London - the liberal circle of my friends. I don't know the "shy Tories", or I don't know that I know them. Without knowing, I can't understand them. And that understanding is so crucial, if there is ever to be change.
In Poland, the discussion about single-member districts is raging. One of the arguments I heard mentioned is that UK uses this very system. This, while in UK we sign petitions to "make the seats match the votes". The irony is thick.
I feel like I'm living on the other side of the mirror. Or possibly both of them at the same time.