This week we have been looking at micropolitics. Basically, micropolitics is social organisation ‘on the ground’ as opposed to macropolitics which is top-down, e.g. the government is an instance of macropolitics.
Micropolitics is a pretty dry word, however what it refers to are things like ‘Buy, Sell, Swap’ Facebook pages or similar initiative which eliminate the need for a traditional governing third party (e.g. Ebay or a pawn shop). That is to say, they are disintermediated in the traditional sense. The term is also somewhat contradictory when you consider that the initiatives it refers to are quite often online and widespread.
Another example of micropolitics are the increasing number of Facebook pages developed for the purpose of reuniting or rehoming stray animals. Manning warns that “an emphasis on movement does not promise an emancipatory politics” (2009, p. 137). This is to say, the expansion of micropolitics does not necessarily mean a more effective communication system.
Allow me to elaborate with a firsthand experience.
I have two cats. One of them stays inside and blissfully starts purring if you so much as look at him. The other, however, has decided he is destined to be an alley-cat. This means that if I leave a window open more than an inch he seizes the opportunity to do so. Despite being microchipped and wearing a collar, he is often taken to the vets or pound by
a complete moron concerned people in my neighbourhood.
On one occasion, after two weeks of lost posters, calls to pounds and endless searching, I found my cat advertised on one such page. Without taking him to a vet (who could have scanned the microchip and promptly called me to collect him)
an infuriating busybody a kindhearted stranger had ‘rescued’ my cat from the alleyway behind my house and handed him in to the rescue group who posted him on their page. Ten days prior. Which just so happens to be four days short of the necessary amount of time an animal is held for reclaiming before being rehomed. What does 10 nights in a lovely rescue shelter set you back? A lot, that’s what.
What was the result of this example of micropolitics in play? Two weeks of stress (for both myself and my cat) and a significant amount of financial debt. I’m not saying all micropolitics is bad – Jellis (2009) and Rhiengold (2008) are just a few who would argue otherwise – but eliminating the traditional governing body is not always a great idea. If my cat had been taken to a vet they would have scanned the microchip and the whole thing could have been avoided.
Furthermore, I’d like to argue that the new era of micropolitics and people taking certain aspects of life into their own hands (i.e. traditionally it would have been up to a Ranger to catch a suspected stay) is somewhat responsible for him being picked up in the first place. Rangers carry microchip readers because that is the reasonable first step in determining whether an animal is a stray. Had the traditional body been present instead of a member of the public, they would have known he was not a stray and my cat would have been left alone.
Moral to the story …please don’t kidnap the animal you think is a ‘stray’, not matter how tempting it is! Micropolitics might just fail you.