Cambridge students should care about international politics

Iván Merker 14 December 2017

Cambridge students at large seem to care less about politics outside the Anglosphere. No question, there is a lot currently going on in the politics of the US and the UK, but there are equally important political issues around the world and we should pay attention to them.

For example, why is relatively no one worried about Germany? After the elections this September there are 92 members in the Bundestag representing the far-right AfD party (this should sound extremely worrying to everyone familiar with, you know, history) and Angela Merkel hasn’t been able to build up a working coalition ever since. Both of these events are extraordinary in the compromise-based and fairly centrist world of German politics.

This is important even from a British point of view, after all, Germany is the largest economy in the EU, Angela Merkel is the most influential European politician (sorry Macron fans), and Britain is supposed to make a trade deal with the EU. (Except when that deal would violate the interests of a hard-right party with a support of 0.5%, of course.)

However, even outside the British perspective, whether the fourth largest economy in the world has a coalition to form a cabinet or not is an important question – so why aren’t people concerned with it? Why is it more important that same-sex couples can marry in Australia than in Austria? (The Guardian, a primary news source to many left- or liberal-leaning students, failed to report on the latter entirely.)

Of course, these comparisons aren’t entirely fair – after all, the Guardian has an Australian edition, it is only natural that they will have news on Australia – but it is quite telling that a newspaper that cherishes marriage equality doesn’t report on an event that would be praised as “historic” in a country that speaks English. Mind you, we’re talking about Austria, a country which is certainly not the most underrepresented in the English-speaking media.

Of course, situation goes even worse when leaving the fairly well-known ground of European politics to, say, the Middle East or Africa.

The question arises, why should we care whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry in foreign countries? Cambridge students will soon become members of the political, intellectual and economic elite in a disproportionate number. Until this is the case (even if it shouldn’t be) being interested only in American, Australian and British politics is not far better than being a Little Englander.

Again, this is true even beyond issues of global justice, not that it isn’t especially important that you take two countries of equal interest as equally interesting, even if one of them doesn’t speak your language. If you think Britain should be a true “global player”, you can’t achieve that by being concerned only about American politics, “special relationship” or no.

No question, many Cambridge students know a great deal about international politics. But not enough – people emerge here as members of the elite (and, lets be frank, often that’s why they come here) and Britain should have a political elite more deserving its status.