Yes, I study politics but please stop asking me about Brexit
Dear relatives, Uber drivers and dentists
Let's set the scene. I'm at a family event and I'm making small talk with a family friend. They ask me how uni's going swiftly followed by:
"So what do you study again?"
"Oh wow. What a great time to be studying it! Have you seen the news today about (insert Brexit shambles here)? What actually is going on?"
At this point, I normally try to move the conversation on because, lets face it, a family function when everyone's had a few wines is hardly conducive to a well-informed and calm discussion about politics.
But it isn't just relatives and family friends who feel the need to ambush me with this – it is also hairdressers and Uber drivers amongst many others.
It seems I'm not alone in this experience. Last week, during a lecture on the future of the EU, Dr Patrick Theiner – a man whose literal job it is to educate 400-ish second year students on the EU – admitted for the past few years he has been lying to strangers he has to make small talk with about his job. Instead of admitting he is a politics lecturer, he has been telling people he is an accountant for a wind turbine manufacturer – just to avoid talking about Brexit.
So, why am I, and other Politics students (plus academics too it seems), so fed up with talking about Brexit?
Your perception of what a Politics degree actually is, is probably wrong
A course pal of mine has genuinely been asked "isn't a Politics degree just, like, the news?". It's far less current affairs based than people think. I have had exactly one lecture specifically on something current in nearly a year and a half of my degree. You might use current examples to help explain a broader concept or theory, but it's rarely the focus.
There are other current political issues I'd much rather talk about that Brexit is pushing down the agenda
Be that the Domestic Abuse Bill that was delayed by the prorogation of Parliament or the fact that the planet is literally dying. Are trade deals and immigration going to matter ~that much~ in 30 years if rising sea levels cause the homes of 1 in 10 to become uninhabitable.
The conversation around Brexit has become so toxic, it often seems impossible for it to be amicable
Because of how Brexit has divided people down the middle, it has caused a great deal of resentment on both sides. Brexit has basically become a glorified screaming match – and that's just in the House of Commons. Each side seems to be wilfully ignorant of the other's concerns and this means…
There are so many problematic assumptions and prejudices
Remainers seem to be cast as a bunch of Pret-lovers who think the world starts and ends inside the M25, whilst leavers have been labelled 'gammons'. Dismissing Brexiteers as a bunch of racists is lazy and what kinda got us into this mess in the first place. However, immigrants have undoubtedly come off worst. The can of xenophobic worms opened by the leave campaign has meant some feel their own highly questionable views are now tolerated and even mainstream.
The line between legitimate opinion and offensive comment has become blurred
I have no issue with talking to people whose opinions differ from my own, but you never quite know what a near stranger (or even family member) is going to say on something this polarising. I try not to assume the worst but I have been faced with situations where someone has said something offensive and you never quite know how to respond. Do you a) call them out as it's the right thing to do? Or b) ignore it and not potentially ruin Christmas dinner?
Ultimately, I have no idea what really is going on with Brexit
No amount of BBC News notifications on my phone can get to the bottom of what will happen or is happening right now. Even those whose job it is to know what is going on don't know (as evident from the totally legit lecture slide above about the UK's future in the EU). And that is not just because it changes by the minute but also because many of the politicians involved themselves don't know. It was recently revealed that Boris Johnson had been 'Rebekah Vardy-ing' Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, by sending ludicrous Brexit proposals to see if they'd get leaked to the press. So, if the Irish government don't know what's going on, how on earth are the rest of us expected to? Not least a 19 year old politics student like me.