Yesterday evening, I went and did my democratic
duty pointless minor hassle, and voted in the national referendum on the Alternative Vote.
I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to bother, but on my way home I saw a Polling Station sign on the building directly opposite where I live. So, since it was all happening a fifteen-second walk from my front door, I went and joined in.
I’m not entirely convinced by the way I ended up voting, but fortunately it will have precisely zero impact on anything. So I get a faint, delusory feeling of self-congratulatory smugness at having done something people generally approve of, and I’m at no actual risk of buggering up the country. It’s win-win.
What I’ve found myself feeling most strongly about, though, is the constant insistence that everyone must get out and vote, particularly by people who claim not to care which way the ballots are cast.
I can’t think of any other area in which mere participation is so lauded, and the particular method so apparently unimportant. You wouldn’t find many devoted football fans saying: “I hope a striker from one of the teams scores a goal. I don’t care which one, so long as it’s not a draw.”
Particularly odious is the idea that “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”. I don’t know how it got a hold on the public consciousness so successfully, given how inadequately it withstands examination.
Here’s how that particular allegation translates:
Hello, we’re in charge. And we’re not interested in your opinions, objections, or complaints about the way we’re doing things, except on this one daily event in between years-long stretches of doing what you’re told. We permit you to protest at this one specific time, in one clearly regimented manner, and if you don’t take it and consider yourselves lucky then whatever else you think is deemed invalid.
Also, if you do use this sole sanctioned method of political engagement to get rid of us and replace us with another lot (who probably aren’t different from us in more than a handful of ways you can name), then you’re to be held personally culpable for everything that goes wrong on their watch.