There will be a general election very soon, here in the UK.
Because of this, there is increasing discourse, and posts on social media about people voting, or not voting, and how they vote, and how right and wrong people think they are to either vote or not vote, or vote but not the way other people think they should.
As you know from previous posts on this blog, I do not vote.
This is anathema to many people. For some it clearly sits along the same spectrum morally as child abuse and cheating old grannies out of their life savings.
My failure is particularly compounded by the fact that I am a woman and I do not vote. As women did not get the vote in this country until 1922 it apparently behoves me to support the sisterhood by voting. If I were also in a minority due to the colour of my skin I would probably be even more in someone else’s debt and even more obliged to exercise my right to vote by those people who believe I have a ‘responsibility’ of some kind.
I have been thinking about whether I should vote in this election. The political landscape is changing enormously in this country (surprisingly, yes, I am interested in politics, and reasonably well informed about what is going on). The upcoming election will be fascinating as it will, for the first time in my memory, really be all to play for.
The sticking point for me though, is who do I vote for? If I look at the parties I cannot find any party that represents my views. If I look at policies I cannot find any party that makes policies I want to get behind. I distrust politicians as a breed, and with good reason, it is fair to say. I do not see any of them standing up for the things that matter to me.
I do see them spending our money wastefully. I take particular exception to them spending that money on themselves. I do see them barracking their opponents and time wasting over bills they do not want to pass. I do see them failing to turn up for electoral debates and votes that are not fashionable or in the public eye, which means that many worthwhile issues never get proper air time or policies passed because of political apathy on the part of MPs who are supposed to take an interest in all the ways the country is run, not just the big ticket issues. I do see them supporting the banks who continue to rob us all blind. I do see them running our health service into the ground before selling it off privately and trying to keep that news off the front pages of the papers. I do see them them smashing the educational life of our children to pieces. I do see them shutting down the libraries. I do see them failing to address the imbalances in our justice system. I do see them taking and taking from those of us who are poorest (and not just in monetary terms) and least able to protest.
I do see them tearing apart everything that I think is important and I do not see any party talking about rebuilding those things, or replacing them with any positive things. I see them lying, cheating, squandering, bickering and behaving like over privileged children who have never been taught to share and never been taught what no means when it comes to other people’s properties or lives. That is what I see.
Are these the people I should vote for?
Tell me. Are those things going to change if I cast my vote? If you can prove to me that by casting my vote, my beliefs, my interests, the issues I care passionately about, will be represented by the MPs and parties in power, then I will step up and cast my vote. I am not naive enough to believe that one party will get behind every policy I care about, by the way, but it would be nice if I could support a party that had more than one or two policies I agree with.
You will no doubt tell me, that if I do not vote, I will never be able to see the change that I want, because I must be in it to win it so to speak. I know that this is not true. My experience in life shows me that the change I want to see is the change that I make for myself. The change I want to see is happening at a grass roots level and that change comes from passionate and informed people who come together to address issues that matter to them.
I do not subscribe to the malaise of believing that just because I have voted I have done my bit for Queen and country. It is not enough that every four years people shift off their arse to vote and then sit on the sofa and moan for the next four years about how the country is going to rack and ruin, and how corrupt the politicians are.
You tell me I haven’t the right to moan about politics because I don’t participate in the way you mandate I should. I say what right have you to moan when you gave them the power and the means in the first place? If I don’t want someone to shoot me, I don’t train them in combat and give them a gun and then stand amazed when they put me up against a wall.
When you are being the change you want to see, come back and talk to me about moral responsibility.
I live in a democracy. I am lucky to live in a democracy, I know that. I am lucky that I am not being imprisoned for what I write on my blog and what I stand for.
People who vote, and who tell me off for not voting often tell me I am somehow undermining the democratic process and by extension, potentially causing the demise of democracy.
I say. Listen to yourselves for a moment. Surely I am exercising the very spirit of what democracy is about? I am not doing as I am told, because I do not have to. I am not following the herd. I am not blindly voting for something because of the fear of some stick that you are threatening to beat me with (in this case, my moral responsibility to others). If you are forcing me to participate in a process I don’t believe in and don’t endorse I might as well be living in a fascist state. Democracy exists so that everyone can have their opinion, whether it sits comfortably with you or not.
I was listening to a debate on Radio Four on Saturday night, about the upcoming election and the issue of dwindling voter numbers. There were a great many people who stood up to point the finger of blame at the apathy of the young and berate them for not voting. Then we heard some counter opinions.
A young lady stood up and said (I paraphrase): ‘It is so easy to attack the public for their failure to vote. It deflects attention away from the government and their shortcomings. Why are we not looking to the government and the political system and asking why they are failing to represent the people they are asking to vote for them?’
It’s a good point.