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Why is politics so complicated!

By Peter Miljak


Read this before you take the political compass test! Why is politics so complicated!


So many of you might remember the Australian federal election in 2019… well probably not because I can tell you for a fact that there have been some major world events since then, and our world has been turned upside down. I mean GOT season 8 happened so yeah!


There was, however, a distinct air of excitement amongst my peers and I, we were just one election away from our own chance to participate in democracy, so it was kind of a big deal. It was certainly interesting listening to the heated classroom debates, and I was amazed at how many people had their political ideologies all figured out with clear stances on each of the major election issues at the time.


As for me, I kept up with the news and had a general idea of which political party I liked (probably derived from my parents’ influence), but I didn’t have an informed opinion on many issues of the election. And I would say that’s fairly normal considering the election was largely fought over economic issues and I don’t even pay tax.


Image: ABC 2019

But it just wasn’t enough. I was ready to become an emotionally mature adult and dive deep into my soul in search of answers.  “Wow look at this easy, reliable-looking political compass test that will accurately compare my views to well-known political figures!” … boy was I naïve.


For those of you who don’t know the political compass, it charts your political ideology on a grid that shows the ‘political spectrum’. The vertical axis of the grid measures the ‘social’ aspect of your political views and the horizontal axis measures the economic aspect of your political viewpoint.


The test has become increasingly popular as a fun way for people to engage themselves in domestic and international politics. But things are never so simple…

Now I should probably take a step back and let you know the political compass test isn’t a flawed test, and I am by no means an expert on political theory. However, personally, finding out where I was located on the political compass really confused me, even intimidated me from pursuing an interest in politics that I was just starting to get into.


The main aspect that I found challenging to understand about the political compass is how abstract it is; Libertarian, Authoritarian, Left and Right aren’t clear-cut boundaries, so it is difficult to relate them into policies of the government here and now. For example, In Australia we normally use the term ‘left wing’ to refer to the Labor party, but on politicalcompass.org’s analysis of the last Australian election (I encourage you to check it out!), both Labor and Liberal fall into the Authoritarian-Right quadrant – It’s all relative I guess…


At the same time, a quick google search can reveal where many world leaders of past and present ‘sit’ on the compass. This can be misleading as the ideologies of individuals often arise due to a very specific social context. For example, Mussolini political policies were a reaction to major economic hardships faced in Italy following WWI. I mean, it even says on your personalised political compass certificate… “Positions are not intended to be accurate, but simply reflect the appropriate quadrant for each figure.”.


But don’t worry, you have to make it through the questions first!

According to politicalcompass.org in a statement about the nature of the test’s questions, or ‘propositions’ as political compass refers to them: “Your responses (to the propositions) should not be over-thought. Some of them are intentionally vague. Their purpose is to trigger reactions in the mind, measuring feelings and prejudices rather than detailed opinions on policy.”


And without spoiling the questions in the test, yes; they are vague and frustrating, why is there no neutral option! It is easy to finish the test feeling that it was pointless, as the questions don’t directly relate to government policies. That was certainly what I thought at the time, but after much internal debate I now kind of see the point; Keeping the questions general makes the test more universal, so that basically anyone in the world could take it.


However, the most difficult aspect of the Political compass test for me was sheer volume of jargon, memes, analysis and opinions (right now you’re reading mine!) that are associated with it. It is overwhelming, and after falling down the political compass rabbit-hole, I can tell you with certainty that I am still trapped here a year later. I have learnt a lot thanks to this journey through the internet, taking surveys, absorbing the opinions of random youtubers, and learning about political movements throughout history.  Slowly, my political opinions are becoming clearer, and I have no doubt they will continue to change as I learn more about the world.


Image @eurekastreet.com.au

The political compass test is just one of the many sources of information for us to broaden our minds out there on the internet, among vast swathes of videos, podcasts and articles. My experience was being thrown in the deep end, yet it also made me look for other sources of information to inform my political views. And for that I thank it.


So, with a beleaguered sigh, I encourage you to check out the political compass website with your new-found spare time. Start your own journey into the world of politics if you haven’t already. There is a lot of insightful analysis out there, you just need to find a source that is right for you. Just remember to persevere and don’t get frustrated. Good Luck!



* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.

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