If it was one thing I learnt when growing up about conversations at the dinner table, it was that ‘one should never talk about politics’.
Hot air equals politics
I’m not sure where this idea was first engrained, but this was a rule society gave that I stuck by. At least when meeting new people….until now! Before living in this northerly island capital, I hardly gave a @#&* about politics. It was just all huff and puff, hot air, decisions made in a faraway world that might eventually hit the little people like you and me (or maybe not you, but definitely me). My friends were quite cynical too. This is not to say we were completely ignorant about what was happening in the world. There were just so many other interesting distractions to occupy our conversations.
Politics is Greenland
Lately in Greenland, politics sometimes seems like the only point of interest. Insanely so. Granted that it’s been the focus more than usual, with a tumultuous few months due to a few incidents. It ended with then Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond stepping down and a new election called. In Greenland, or at least in Nuuk, one can’t help but hear and talk about the intrigues of the state. Current issues are discussed in the corridors, by the water cooler, and also openly in the lunch room. This could be because both the locals I’ve met here and Danes in Denmark talk about politics. Most Nordic people I have met abroad in the world were much more aware and engaged about both local and international politics than any Steve or Joe from Australia. And I wonder… why don’t we care so much in Australia?
The Hunger Games
To me, politics in Australia was like living in a faraway district in The Hunger Games (besides the bloodshed). The decisions made there were not in the interests of the little people, they were decided for the capitalists – so that the rich could get richer. Here, the rhetorics of the latest Greenlandic government are a bit different. In their recent budget proposal, the federal government suggested that Sermersooq municipality which consists of Nuuk Capital Region (economic powerhouse) and East Greenland should actually pay more dues to cover the expenses for the rest of the country’s municipalities. If you think of the Hunger Games, at first glance it’s actually a reverse tribute. However, East Greenland is financially one of the weakest areas in the country, so maybe it still isn’t so different after all.
As a side note, the voters who are in the ‘districts’ pack a punch of power due to their larger numbers (16,000 in Nuuk, 56,000 altogether). It’s important that the politicians campaign and talk to a population who live mainly outside the capital; in other towns and also the settlements. That makes campaigning where radio is still the most important media very different from your regular election. And instead of killing tributes from outer districts off in ‘Games’, the politicians need to woo them.
Directly affecting YOU
I don’t know whether it is the ‘Greenland affect’, but here everything seems to be a little closer. I’ve seen some of the politicians at the grocery store. I mean, the main government building is right on top of the only shopping centre in Greenland so it’s a bit hard to miss. But they are not just physically closer, so are the policy decisions made at the top power levels of the Greenlandic government. A decision can mean a job is created or lost, or that the politician’s actions means that your partner needs to work until midnight to finish a story. Right now, some government workers are twiddling their thumbs because they cannot do any ‘new’ political work while there is an election.
The decisions made at this level also create future people, by instilling values and expectations of life. An easy example is that many things are subsidised in Greenland due to the Nordic-based social welfare system. Education is also free in the country and I sometimes feel that the perks that come with taking study is taken too much for granted. This happens elsewhere, too. Education is largely free in Germany. However, when a German friend of mine came to Australia to study his full degree, and ended up having to pay $20,000 a year, his expectations for a high-quality education and his will to achieve the most out of his education through hard work was also raised. When the stakes are higher and you are using your own money, you have to care more.
So in my short brush with politics, I’ve found out that it is more than just policy. The decisions made ‘far away’ in the fluffy room can directly impact your life. The extra-ordinary election to decide upon the next Greenlandic government will be held on 28 November. Here, I don’t have the right to vote since I’m not a citizen. Perhaps if I ever live in Australia again or get the right to vote again, it’s time for me to start caring more.
Do you give a ^#$& about politics? If you’re an expat living elsewhere, do you think it’s worth being involved or caring about local politics?