People can be consciously active in politics. Apathy is a possible choice – implying either a lack of knowledge as to how to participate, or a belief that their participation would make no difference – but neither of these reasons is defensible, given the number of mechanisms available:
- By voting in democratic elections, people can choose politicians.
- In a democracy, they can choose to join a political party (18.104.22.168); that gives them an opportunity to influence its policies and its choice of leader. Joining the party in a one-party system would be at least a statement of conformity, and might also provide a mechanism for exerting political influence.
- They can apply pressure on politicians, by demonstrating or by direct communication (22.214.171.124).
- They can join political pressure groups (6.4.4).
- If a non-political interest group decides to apply political pressure, its members would normally support it; merely being counted as part of its membership is a form of support.
- They can donate time, money and facilities to political parties or to pressure groups (6.4.5).
- They can avoid buying goods and services from countries or organisations they disapprove of, perhaps because of concerns about the workers’ human rights (126.96.36.199). This use of economic power can have a political effect if such purchasing decisions are explained and publicised.
- People can explain their concerns, if they are given an opportunity in consultation processes (6.5.3).
Some of these forms of participation depend on free speech, as discussed later in this chapter (188.8.131.52).
Many people might find themselves to be in opposition to a government, often alongside many others who share their views. They will want to continue to apply pressure on specific issues or on general policy directions, even though the government they oppose might be popular with the majority of the population. As described later in this chapter, people need to be able to apply pressure and raise governance issues (184.108.40.206), and then participate in meaningful negotiation (6.8.4), even if they haven’t joined an interest group.