Among the questions I get asked most frequently these days is “Why don’t you write about/discuss/comment on politics anymore?”, or something along those lines. The question is a fair one. Until fairly recently, I was a very keen observer of politics and current events. The old iteration of my personal blog, as well as much of my early freelance writing for various online publications, focused a lot on political issues. Why have I steadily moved away from these topics, then?
Firstly, after a while of following politics as closely as I did, I started to notice very familiar patterns in terms of the discourse around political issues. The location, issue and people and parties involved may change, but the same fundamental stories popped up over and over. Once you notice the fundamental patterns, following the news cycle and day-to-day political issues becomes far less interesting and worthwhile.
Secondly, much of what happens in politics and current events, when you start to think about it, is largely inconsequential. Think back to this time last year, or the beginning of the year. What, if anything, do you remember about the big news stories and political issues of those times? Very little, if anything, I would imagine. I certainly can’t recall anything. Even thinking back just a month or a few weeks, I can only vaguely recall the major news stories from then. This is not to say that politics is inherently not worth discussing. However, the issues that garner the most attention are rarely what is most important. The truly important political issues are far more slow-burning and require a level of attention and expertise to understand than I can credibly claim to have or meaningfully discuss.
Stepping back from day-to-day thinking and taking a longer-term approach to examining these issues has helped me to put much of our contemporary political discussion in context. It helps to separate what is meaningful from what is largely frivolous and only of passing importance.
Increasingly, I find exploring the grander and more fundamental questions of society to be of greater interest. To do so, I prefer to write on topics within a particular disciplinary focus, such as history, economics, technology and so on. If there’s a meaningful political angle within these topics to discuss, I may mention it, but it’s usually of tangential importance to do so.
Thirdly, a sustained, intense focus on political issues has a negative effect on one’s mindset and attitude. I have known too many people who became exclusively focused on politics or a particular political cause and the effect it has on them. Talking about anything outside of their pet political issue can be a frustrating, if not impossible task. Having been guilty of this to a degree in the past, I wish to avoid acting in a similar way in the future. Chances are, you who are reading this post know someone who has similarly been caught up in politics in a very partisan and one-dimensional manner.
This is particularly noticeable for those of you who are Twitter users, particularly within the last couple of years. Politics has always been a fraught topic of discussion, but it has gotten to the point where any productive discussion is basically impossible. And if a meaningful discussion is impossible or prohibitively difficult, why engage in it in the first place? It’s not essential for me to do so, either in a professional or personal capacity, so I may as well forego it altogether.
It’s also not particularly productive. As I read more and more on topics such as psychology and self-development, the topics of the news cycle, politics and its effect on mood and productivity is a frequent issue for discussion and research. One thing that almost all of these writers have mentioned, in terms of productivity, is that consumption of daily news is among the worst things to do for productivity and motivation. In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that the desire to keep up with an ever-quickening news cycle is a major reason for the erosion of many people’s ability to concentrate and engage in longer-term, productive and meaningful work.
To summarise, it makes little sense on any level for me to follow politics particularly closely or discuss it anymore, save the odd occasion. I’m no longer a freelance writer in any meaningful capacity, I don’t have much interest in it and following politics would only divert my time and attention away from more meaningful tasks and keener interests. As such, you’re unlikely to see me discuss political issues at any great length on this blog or on any site that I may write for in the future.