If you do not vote, do not complain

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day, do what young people all over the world are dying to do: vote.”

― Rick Mercer

COMMENT | I really dig this passage from David Foster Wallace - “If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard's vote.”

I like the quote so much that I have used it before. It neatly exposes the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of not voting. It also is a reminder that cynical arguments of not voting as a means of registering dissatisfaction helps the very people you are dissatisfied with.

At a recent forum, activist and former lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said that she respects the decision of abstaining from voting. While voting may not be the only way to effect change – it is the easiest way and one that demands very little of a citizen in a functional democracy – claiming that believing otherwise “degrade a person’s humanity down to the act of voting” is obnoxious, considering all over the world people are in some cases dying in their efforts to get this most fundamental of human rights.

Meanwhile, DAP’s Hannah Yeoh, referring to the ‘abstain from voting’ movement as “unhelpful” – unhelpful to whom, I wonder? - preached the usual political bromides of changing the system incrementally. This, of course, is political speak for “do not hold us to our grand promises because the system does not work that way.”

I do not respect the decision to abstain from voting. I am all for finding out the reasons why young people (especially) are disillusioned by the choices that they have (I have written numerous articles on this subject) but ultimately if you do not vote, you should not complain about the state of the country. You should not endlessly bitch and moan about how hard done by you are by the system.

Here is a taste of why I think some folks choose to abstain – “The opposition always says that people are not ‘educated’ and that if they only knew the ‘truth’, they would understand why we need to change the government. Perhaps people know the truth and they believe that it is safer for whatever reason not to vote because it would not make any difference, especially now that the opposition has joined forces with the very man they claimed was destroying this country – how many times has this country been destroyed? – and attempting to engineer a revival that would see the system not only rejuvenated but also redeemed. Perhaps some folks do not want to be a part of that.”

I will bet my last ringgit that the same people who do not vote also troll news sites and fill social media with their numerous complaints, confine their “activism” to forwarding anti-establishment or pro-opposition polemics even though neither appeals to them, and mocking people from both sides of the political divide for being part of the problem...

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