This is a weird thought that I’ve had over the last few days.
In 1994, I graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA (Hons) degree in Economics and Politics with European Study. I scraped at 2.1. I think I got 61%. I had worked really hard to get that 2.1. I think my intellectual ability then was a 2.2. but with hard work and determination I pushed myself into the 2.1. bracket.
From 1995 to the present day, I have barely used my degree for anything work related (I’ve worked for a locksmith, taught English, worked for a Japanese translation service and worked mostly in academic publishing).
Since 1994, I’ve questioned why I did a degree in Economics and Politics with European Study when my interests lie in other areas (art). When asked about what I studied at university, I’ve since been embarrassed to admit ‘err, well, economics and errr, politics’ as if it is a socially unacceptable for someone creative to study something so dry.
At the time of graduation, I probably had a great deal of knowledge of how economics work on the macro and micro scale and about the politics of the UK and Europe. But over the last 22 years, that knowledge has sat at the back of my brain, gathering dust. I have had little need to draw on it.
Every time we’ve had a general election, and when Mrs Thatcher died, that knowledge has been allowed to come out of hiding for a short while and inform my opinion (for good or for bad) on the events of the day. I’ve read the occasional economics or politics non-fiction popular read such as The Armchair Economist, Chavs, Freakanomics and Superfreakanomics. I’ve kept vaguely abreast of political events via twitter, facebook, Radio 4 and the Guardian. It ends there.
In 2012, I started a Foundation Degree in Contemporary Art Practice at Shrewsbury College and any interest in politics or economics went further back into my consciousness. I reasoned: art and economics do not mix. They are not easy bedfellows. I choose art. I reject economics. I became even more embarrassed by my non-creative degree.
Then more recently, David Cameron, in his wisdom or otherwise, decided to call a referendum on membership of the EU. Thanks to him, that part of my brain that quite liked those dry subjects woke up. I’ve spent the last few months getting more and more obsessed with the question: should Britain leave the European Union? I’ve become fascinated with the arguments on both sides and the people who have advocated both sides. I’ve asked: why do they think that way? Where do the divisions lie? Why are their divisions that correlate with age, class, family, education, geographic location and employment? Why does political leaning not come into it? Why? Why? Why? I was completely (and still am) seduced by the remain arguments (Project Fear, as the Leavers coined it). Now I am questioning whether this is because, as many of the current commentators have argued, I am a borderline member of the no-liberal chattering Guardian reading classes? Possibly. More than possibly. In fact, yes. But that’s not what I am discussing here. What I am interested in here is the resurfacing of my interest in politics (and to some extent, economics) that has come about by the referendum. I’ve become an avid Radio 4 listener and I even watched Question Time today.
Now, I hope that there isn’t a limit on what I can be interested in and that the room in my brain for art is not being squashed. My overall hope is that current events will feed into my creativity in some way. I think it will. My current fascination is with facebook. I am utterly gripped by how events have unfolded on facebook and I have spent far too much time than is healthy living there rather than in the real world.
We all have between 100 and 1,000 friends on facebook. We live in our own little social circles in that virtual world. But those circles, like a giant every-growing Venn diagramme, are linked. I suspect that every UK citizen could probably cite identical experiences of how their friends have responded to the referendum result since 6am Friday morning. It goes something like this:
Remain: anger (including insults to the leavers).
Remain: desperation (signing a petition asking for a second referendum).
Remain: ‘But look what has happened already.’
Leave: ‘This is democracy, shut up already’.
Some Remain: ‘Let’s be friends.’
Other Remain: ‘They lied to you!’
Some Leave: ‘Let’s be friends.’
Other Leave: ‘They are up their bottoms.’
That takes us to today. I’ve become even more of a facebook addict than I was before Thursday (and I have always been a big fan of facebook). But this time in the name of art, economics and politics, which I now realise are the best of bedfellows for me, and about time too.