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To opt out of politics is to opt out of life April 13, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs.
Tags: , , , , , ,

In fact, I’ll go further than that: opting out of politics is not an option, it’s capitulation. To opt out is to cop out, to surrender, to abdicate responsibility, to give in.

But don’t worry: this isn’t going to degenerate into one of those terminally boring posts that tries to emotionally blackmail you into voting. I myself may or may not vote in the forthcoming election, but either way I most certainly won’t be signing up to Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Promise to Vote‘ campaign or supporting any of the other coercive voting campaigns. Because politics is about far more than voting: voting is merely the tip of the iceberg — a tip that can, of course, become a tipping point, but which can also become a tripping point, a point at which people can say, “That’s it, job done, duty completed.” Cast your vote and walk away — and that, I think, is more of an abdication than taking a principled stand by refusing to vote when there is no candidate worthy of the vote.

And that’s part — only part, please note — of the problem I’m up against: I’ve yet to see anything from any of the parties that makes me want to vote for them — especially when I know full well that whoever I vote for, the party that finally gains control of our supposedly democratic country will do so not with a majority but with the biggest minority. That’s not democracy, it’s certainly not a mandate from the people when most of us didn’t want that party in power, and I have no desire to support such an anti-democratic system. Suppose that I do vote and that the party I vote for wins against the wishes of the majority: what does that make me if not a co-dictator along with the party?

To me, a far more important principle than voting is freedom. That, I think, is what true democracy and politics are about: freedom; and that freedom must necessarily include the right to withhold your vote as much as to bestow it. Then afterwards, after the fuss has died down, to get back to business by standing up to whichever bunch of clowns gain this country’s inglorious crown.

Don’t be fooled: there’s more to politics and democracy than the ballot box. It’s not how we vote or who we vote for that counts: it’s how we live in between times. Don’t vote with the ballot box: vote with your life.


1. Pandora - April 13, 2010

Things are especially difficult here in Norn Iron as the only parties that have any chance of electoral success are founded on divisive sectarian lines. Even if they weren’t, they have almost no say in the Commons due to their tiny members’ numbers.

Personally, I have very little time for any of them, but I always go out and vote anyway. In part it’s because I strangely retain a childlike wonder at the possibility of making a difference to the future of the country, though of course I’m fully aware of the idealism of that statement. Moreover, though, I kind of feel like if I don’t vote, I can’t complain when they inevitably screw things up…but the other side of that, I suppose, is that if turnout is notably low, then they have to take note.

I don’t know. This is the first election in my living memory where I’ve felt slight envy of the USA!


Phil Groom - April 13, 2010

Thanks Pan (am I allowed to call you Pan? Lazy typist syndrome…). I don’t envy you the situation there … but I love that idea of “a childlike wonder at the possibility of making a difference to the future of the country” — hold on to that, please! If I could, I’d give you my vote to add to yours.

*hugs* right back to ya 🙂

2. David Marriott - April 14, 2010

So, I take it my ploy (deleting Facebook friends who do not vote) is not one you entirely concur with?

While the above idea is more attention grabbing than I perhaps intend to follow through with, I just find apathy annoying and most frustrating. Especially amongst younger people.

However, I acknowledge that a non-vote is just as valid a political expression (perhaps taking the form of a spoiled ballot), but my plan of action is more in retaliation to those who don’t care.

You, however, clearly do.

*stamps form with special exemption”

Phil Groom - April 14, 2010

Thanks David. I’m as opposed to apathy as you are; and now I’ve found a campaign that might well give me someone to vote for:

Beats that Westminster thingummywotsit by a long way: join today!! Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/hangparliament

3. Erika Baker - April 14, 2010

Living in such a safe constituency that even the hang-em list doesn’t bother about us, I have real difficulties trying to explain to my teenage daughters why they should take an interest in the election and why voting is important.
In fact, I haven’t got a single convincing argument.

Phil Groom - April 14, 2010

A tough call, Erika … here’s hoping something comes up to make a difference.

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