Monday, April 9, 2012

Democracy: You Must Vote

Good morning to you, my friend. It's a new week and thus begins a new slew of blog posts for the week. Today I want to talk about a very important part of your democratic right, should you be fortunate enough to live in a society that affords such a luxury: freedom of choice. Living in a democracy, I must admit that I have, for a very long time, taken the freedoms of such a society for granted for far too long. I am not the only individual guilty of this; I think we have all been guilty in some way or another. Today, we're going to focus specifically on the voting aspect of democracy.

Voting. Here in Canada, at least through the better part of the last 15 years, we have had to go to the polls almost every other year to vote in a new federal election. Minority government after minority government falling to the unified will of the remaining opposition parties. Over and over again, millions of Canadian tax dollars being wasted frivolously on re-election after re-election. It's not so hard to understand how Canadians have become apathetic to voting: they're sick and tired of going to the polls.

I am quite possibly more guilty than most when it comes to apathy towards my government; I feel absolutely nothing for them. As a result I have spent the last 12 years of my life making one of the biggest mistakes one can make when living in a democracy: I didn't vote. For those of you doing the math, I am 31 minus 12 years of not voting equals missing my first year of eligibility at age 18: I voted for the New Democratic Party the first year I was eligible. I have never voted since.

I had many justifiable and rationalized explanations for why I elected not to vote. You've heard the old expression that 'if you don't vote then you have nothing to complain about'? Well I used that in a reverse fashion in the sense that if I did not vote, then I could not be held responsible for the actions of those in power. A sick sense of delusion I know but when your government has repeatedly ignored the demands of the people (and yes I am aware I live in a very luxurious, wealthy and wasteful society and my experience of oppression is different in scale than many, many other places and I in no way aim to devalue the plight of those who have it much worse than I) and continued to waste Canadian tax dollars on fruitless expenditures (ie: private planes, a golf course, crime bills, etc, etc). I lived in the fantasy that I was making a statement by not voting; I was wrong, very wrong.

You see my friend, in a democratic the society, the gravest trespass that one can commit is to not use the rights and freedoms gained for you by your ancestors of the past who fought and died for them. Voting is one of them. I, more than anybody, understand the many reasons one can come up with not to vote but none are as important as the reasons to vote. Somebody, in fact many somebodies, gave all that they had so that you and I could enjoy the freedoms we do today. They died and asked only in return that we value, respect and use that which they fought for. If that isn't a good enough reason to vote, I don't know what is. However, let me mention one more very good reason to go vote.

If you are like me, disillusioned with the government and its practices, then you also feel pretty apathetic about going out to vote. You, like me, most likely figure that there is no real choice; when one is choosing the lesser of two evils it is still evil we choose. Because of thoughts like this it is very difficult to rationalize that your vote doesn't count or that it will make no difference in the outcome; you could very well be right. You may even think that voting is pointless because you think it's all rigged; that could be true too. The important thing here, if you think like this, is to remember that not everybody involved in politics is corrupt; many of them but not all. 

Your vote is counted, whether it affects the outcome is irrelevant. That it is counted is relevant. Even if you feel as I mentioned above, you should make a point of going to vote and ruining your vote. That's right, take the time to go down and mark a giant X on your ballot. Why? How is that any different than not voting? It's very different. A ruined ballot gets counted as such; it gets counted as a vote and they keep tabs on such votes and also contributes to the overall voter turnout (as opposed to not voting at all which reflects poorly on voting turnout). If, at the end of an election, 40 per cent of Canadians did not vote then our government assumes the population is uncaring about their government when in fact we both know it is not that, but a lack of feeling like we matter. 

However, at the end of an election, if those same 40 per cent cast a ruined ballot this would do two things: one is that it would increase the vote turnout to reflect the true eligible voting population of the country and demonstrate that Canadians DO care. The second thing that would occur would be that the government would be faced with an undeniable fact: the people of Canada are mad as hell. We are mad and we are tired of the nonsense. We are so tired in fact that we would rather have no leader than you. We are mad that our system has been corrupted and is being torn apart by the seams. We are so discontent and disillusioned that we have shed our apathy of voting only to spite you with a ruined ballot.

It is time for Canadians to wake up to their apathy and shed it. Yes we have luxury; yes we have wealth; yes we have more than most; is that a reason to take it all for granted? Because you have while others do not? Well let me tell you something: you live in one of the only places on this planet that allows you these freedoms and rights. If you do not realize that you are entitled to them, demand your entitlement to them, they will be taken from you and then you will be left with nothing, wondering when it was that it became too late. It is on the way to being too late. Go vote; it is the most basic of the freedoms you possess and the only one that gives you a voice in the control and operation of your government.