They're not voting because...
- This is one of the only intelligent ...
This is one of the only intelligent and reasonable comments on this site. This person along with the under-18 year-old who was frustrated at his / her disenfranchisement stand out from the rest.
Most of the postings seem symptomatic of self-loathing and a growing and wide-scale desire on the part of your contributors - to blame everybody else for the ills in society.
If you dont like any of the political parties, either join one to change it, set up your own, or stand yourself as an independent. Or return to this website and change your posting to Im too lazy and stupid to do anything about my own dissatisfaction.
If you just dont agree with liberal democracy, there is a slew of countries that you can move to where you will find a murderous government that shares your views. You could even do everyone a favour by going to live there.written 6th May 2005
David replies: Or perhaps a desire to vote for someone who will tackle the issues effectively. Take nuclear power and Europe, both effectively ignored in the election campaign. If you want to vote on those policies, what do you do? sanctioning an existing political party is backing them blindly. Take your head out of your own backside and realise that the reasons given for not voting, whilst not necessarily correlating with your own opinion, are valid.written 6th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: The lib-dems are pro-European and anti-nuclear. If you agree with their views vote for them. If not, vote for the Tories (anti-EU, pro nuke). Want pro-EU and pro-Nuke? Most commentators agree that Labour will opt for pro-Nuke when they've finished thinking about it. Want anti-Eu and pro-Nuke? I think UKIP fit this bill.
Even if you can't find the right combination, a rudimentary understanding of democracy tells you that you will always have to compromise - either vote for the 'least-worst' or 'nearest to perfect' party. If you visit this site - http://politicalsurvey2005.com/ - you will almost certainly find that only 1-2% of the population share your exact combination of opinions. So it is improbable that any political party will seek to support all of your opinions.
I must stress this: If you don't accept this - and act on it (i.e. vote) you are implicitly rejecting representative democracy - the bedrock on liberal democracy. This is not a choice that anyone can take lightly. If you don't beleive in liberal democracy, you should have the courage and conviction to say what you DO believe in.
Electoral choice is not the same as consumer choice. Keeping your hands in your pockets is to objectively ally yourself with dictators. And if you do that, you not only imperil your own liberty, you imperil mine as well. It's not something to be proud of.written 6th May 2005
Garry Ladd replies: Vote for what exactly?
The current system has an intrinsic bias against change and reduces choice.
The current First Past The Post electoral process means that any 'real' contenders must opearate with a narrow confine. Indeed, the morning after the election Mr Blair ascribed the failure of the Tories to the unwillingness to move onto the centre ground.
Many of the people on this site are not arguing for self-disenfrancisement. Most people are asking for a choice. That's essential.
If you feel that politicians have a self-serving agenda, and that voting for one or another will make no difference to your own life, or that of others, then the motivation for activiation and engagment is lessened.
If we are to re-engage people in the paolitical process, we need to real competiiton in the political process. This requires, IMHO, 2 immediate changes to our consitutional arrangments.
1) We should have a national discussion on our current consitutional arrangements - and royal commission will not do, it must run deeper and seek to actively engage the popluation.
2) We need to introduce a more proportional representative electral system. 37% of those that voted is not a mandate to govern.written 6th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: I couldn't agree more.
So, if you agree with what Garry is saying, what do you do?
a) not vote and then go to a website to tell everybody how disillusioned you are and how you aren't voting (thereby changing nothing)
b) Find a political party that you can bear to be involved with (and one that is likely to win power), join them, and campaign from within for electoral reform.
The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform is very active. It's members include Robin Cook (who would also agree with everything Garry says here). I support it and I recruit new members to it by showing my commitment to the democratic socialist values of the Labour Party.
The point is that not voting is - too often - a sulky refusal to acknowlege that you need to work hard for change. And that democracies are full of people who want different changes to you and that you need to win a competition of ideas and strategy.
Electoral reform isn't the only answer to the problems that Garry has identified either. There are lots of other projects that are geared to making governance more responsive and accountable.
Not voting and not getting involved in mainstream civil society ensures that many of the people who claim to want change contribute absolutely nothing to acheiving it.written 6th May 2005
Tiger43 replies: Vote, end of story. Or you could tell a story and then vote!written 6th May 2005
Tony replies: Your democracy is a very odd place if it's answer to dissent is to tell people to go and live elsewhere or to attempt to intimidate through low-brow insults.
I didn't vote because I don't believe in any of the candidates. Should I vote for a lie? Perhaps you think I should ignore my conscience? My wife votes and we had quite a long discussion about it, this is not something I've done out of apathy, laziness or a desire to change anything. In my opinion, voting when you know you're supporting someone who won't represent you (whether through lack of ability, weakness or a selfish desire to advance themselves) is morally wrong.written 6th May 2005
dcd replies: Tony is right.
Look... it's like this:
(a) some people vote and don't know what they are doing (pathetic)
(b) some people don't vote because they don't know what they are doing, or don't care (apathetic)
(c) some people vote based upon careful consideration and a good understanding of what is going on. (target voter)
(c) some people don't vote even though they know what they are doing, and have a good understanding of what is going on. Having given the matter careful consideration, they feel they cannot in good conscience endorse this process or back the present system.
This site is for those who are not/ did not vote, so that's (a) and (c) scored out.
This site is called NOT Apathetic.com -- therefore (b) is struck-off....
Read (c) again, and stop coming to this site holding the wrong end of the stick!written 6th May 2005
Janet replies: Well said dcd, good logic. We have to be patient I guess. It took most of the worlds population a long time to catch up with the few when it came to the world being round and not flat. Unfortunately a considerable majority of people are still resistent to, or find it very difficult to conceive of any paradigm outside of the mainstream established order. It feels safe in the short term and too dangerous to stray outside of the accepted behavioural norms. It is common then to put up a blind spot to any information that may threaten that comfort zone.
Eric Fromm wrote a really good book called 'The fear of freedom' that explores, guess what, the fear of freedom which I believe is appropriate here. Also giving J. Krishnamurti a hearing is a wise turn for anyone teetering on the edge of daring to not just see their options as going with red, blue or yellow man or woman.
There will always be those who are never likely to understand a 'not apathetic' non vote, because they have been to thoroughly indoctrinated (educated), successfully 'dumbed-down' or just too plain 'thick' - only wear the cap if it fits!
Anyone reading this that did vote, please don't be offended, I used to do it myself until quite recently. Keeping an open mind is the best advice my old Dad ever gave me and I urge anyone feeling angry and defensive to do that too. Try empathising with the various positions offered here on this broad and largely intelligent forum, read widely, contemplate, meditate under a tree. If you find that you still feel the same as you do now, then you're either not trying too hard or you'll have a position that is interesting - to the open-minded that is! Love to you!written 6th May 2005
dcd replies: Thanks, Janet, for the book links... I'm off to Amazon asap!
BTW, apologies for typos in earlier post (how illogical not to check wot I rote)! *grinds teeth*written 7th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: Tony says that "voting when you know you're supporting someone who won't represent you (whether through lack of ability, weakness or a selfish desire to advance themselves) is morally wrong."
He must have been terrifically unlucky (not to say gifted with a forensic ability to look into the conciences of all of his local candidates). I agree that it is highly unlikely that you will find a candidate that will represent you in totality. We live in a representative democracy - not a direct democracy. It may mean that voting is about chosing the 'least worst' option rather than an ideal.
But if the quality of our candidates is uniformly terrible, then we need to look at ourselves as much as the candidates themselves. If we are unable to motivate the right people to stand, then we are ourselves partly culpable in that.
And it would be very difficult to make the case - if our society does have deeply-rooted problems - that the majority grouping in parliament do not have a role to play in remedying this.
So if you think our system is so wrong that you can't bring yourself to vote, the system must be pretty bad. And if it's that bad, it is indefensible - surely - to pass up any opportunity to help fix it. I would argue, Tony, that not having the courage to dig down and identify the least-lacklustre of your candidates is more morally suspect than abdicating this part of your civic responsibility.
By the way, I think that it is very hard to make the case that our system here is THAT bad anyway - I suspect that if you were to look accross the world and accross history, you would find that most generations of humankind would have given their right arm for the post-WW2 European social settlement that we enjoy. And that settlement is based upon the representative democracy that so many contributors to this site seem to distain.
Perhaps Janet is right. Maybe I do need to meditate under a tree to free my mind from it's indoctrination. But I very much doubt it.written 7th May 2005
dcd replies: Paul Evans has a quality argument here, but in the end it fails, not because it is wrong or illogical, but because it is the right answer to the wrong question.
The political system Paul knows well and describes so eloquently would be fantastic in some other time or place.
This is just my opinion of course, and I am sure Paul would be the first to defend my right to have and hold my own thought-through views.
I suugest that the "real world" in which we live hereand now does NOT require anything like the present system we have the luxury of having put in place.
I am not here going into whether it is a good or bad system, a system that works well or can be improved.
Let's set that aside, because whatever it is -- good or bad -- it is inappropriate. The wrong tool for the job.
The world has changed, we have changed, but the system is slow to change to keep up.
There are so many ways to illustrate this, from talking about using IT for voting, referendum-like on specific issues, using technology to make PR actually work, to reforming the upper house, abolishing the monarchy and so forth.
But let me just say that, I personally feel unable to endorse a system where I have to choose the least worst, when I am absolutely positive that we could change this cheaply, easily and quickly. It doesn't have to be this way.
My second Big Issue is that our government is far from accountable. Perhaps it once was just as accountable as any business, but today we are pretty sophisticated.
Where are the performance indicators? I want access to the books, I want to know the numbers, the record, the attendance of my MP, I want him or her to be under the same rules as the rest of us -- if they don't perform, they get warned and then sacked, just like the rest of us.
How can we measure the success of an organisation without the stats? Why are we paying taxes without knowing why? Where is the money spent?
Why can't my constituency MP tell me how many times he's voted under the whip or for the constituents. Where's his report card? How many times has he polled the people he's supposed to represent?
Sorry, but I simply cannot endorse a system like that, not in good conscience; it's a lucky dip. There's no quality assurance system, no public record, forum, polling or other means -- and I'm not talking of direct democracy over representational democracy, I'm talking about results upon which to base my decision to vote, and which person to vote for based upon their credentials and record.written 7th May 2005
Tony replies: In rely to Paul Evans:
It doesn't take "forensic ability", just personal experience and logic.
I have had first hand experience of an MP refusing to represent me through fear of the repercussions to her career (she admitted it!).
I see MPs forced to toe the line by the part whip, regardless of what election promises have been made.
I consider what the candidates are offering in the light of what I want from my MP and base my decision on wether or not they are likely to represent me on that. No esp required.
I was not aware I could motivate anyone to stand, how do I do this? Approach someone in the street? Egg on a friend. I certainly don't have the necessary skills to stand for election.
By voting for someone I don't believe in? Surely THAT is indefensible, being responsible for assisting that person to power.
Comparison proves that things are better, not that they are good. That's the sort of argument offered to make a child eat it's vegetables.
And I would argue that not responding to the attempts to intimidate through insult, e.g. calling me a coward for not voting, takes more courage than putting an x next to the name of the "least lacklustre person".
I find it strange that you don't bother to ask me if I voted in the last general election, or in the local elections or if I intend to go through the same examination of the candidates next time before I decide if I should vote or not.written 7th May 2005
Anonymous replies: "The most significant place in which the fiction of personal freedom is acted out is the area of consumption. The customer is king of the supermarket and the automobile market. Many brands of each commodity vie for his favor. They have tried to entice him for months on the television screen, and when he buys he seems to be like a powerful man who, in full freedom, makes his choices between soap powder A, B, and C -- all of which beg for his vote as political candidates do before election day. The customer-king is not aware that he has no influence on what is offered him, and that the alleged choice is no "choice" since the different brands are essentially the same, sometimes even manufactured by the same corporation."
Erich Fromm, The Art of Being, 1974-6 (London: Constable, 1993), p. 29written 7th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: OK. Motivating people to stand for election:
We all have to take responsibility here. The political system that has shaped this election is one that is moulded around us. Parites test public opinion relentlessly. If they focus on a narrow range of issues, it's because their polling tells us to.
People approach decisions differently if they are going to have to take responsibility for the consequences. For this reason, politicans often appear to be shifty, unprincipled or cynical. It is very easy for spectators to be high-minded about how crucial issues should be dealt with.
This election is the classic case in point. The Lib-Dems called for a higher level of taxation than the other parties. It lost them no votes becuase people don't beleive they will win anyway. They argued for abolition of student tuition fees without explaining that they would either need to hike taxes or cut student numbers to do so. Again, no-one thought that they would win, so students that were dissatisfied with paying these fees flocked to them as a 'protest vote'.
We CAN encourage people to stand for election - we do this by becoming a more understanding electorate. You can do this by becoming active at grass-roots level in local politics. By meeting local Councillors for example - try all of the parties if you wish - ask to spend time with them, sit in the Council chamber, ask them to explain why they do what they do, ask them to justify the actions that they take that appear to you to be cynical.
In this election, I voted for a party (Labour) that has a lot of policies that I don't agree with. I was very unhappy about a lot of decisions that it made - but I understand why it made most of them. I know they are not sinister people - they may be occasionally weak, they may misjudge the facts or miscalculate the consequences of their actions. They are certainly frightened of what the newspapers say and they know from experience that it is often very hard to justify complex decisions to an audience that has a low attention span and a fairly unsophisticated understanding of the issues involved.
But if you ever spend a bit of time - even watching your local Council meeting - you will see that there are really big issues and really big differences in politics. Whoever wins, it has really big consequences for different groups of people. Inevitably, you will never find one party that agrees with everything - or even most - of what you beleive in. But to say that 'they are all the same' or that there is nothing to choose between the parties is to just be ignorant of the facts.
And if they are not all the same, and if there are big differences, then to simply hold your nose and hold yourself above it all IS hard to justify. In a lot of cases, not voting is a symptom of cowardice, laziness or willful ignorance.
And to say that all of the politicans on offer to you either lack ability, are weak, or only in it to advance themselves (these are the reasons you gave Tony) suggests that you claim a moral superiority for yourself over people who dedicate their lives, their efforts and and free time to making the world a better place.
I think you should listen to your wife next time - do as she tells you and VOTE. She is right about this (and you can tell her that a bloke on a website agrees with her). ;-)written 9th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: Sorry - I forgot to answer Ded's points. Ded, I don't think we will agree on this. You appear to be arguing for democracy to shift a bit more towards 'direct' democracy and away from 'representative democracy'.
I know that it could be argued that you are saying that representatives can just be made more accountable by technology, but I think that the end result would be more of a 'direct' democracy if you had your way.
I won't go into why I support 'representative' over 'direct' democracy here - it's the subject of an essay - and one that's been written plenty of times from different points of view.
Also, the mySociety project that is responsible for this site DOES have another website (I think its called http://www.theyworkforyou.com/) that DOES allow you a detailed breakdown of how your MPs behave. Personally, I think it's a very exciting project, but I have reservations about it's objectives.written 9th May 2005
Tony replies: To quote Paul:-
"And to say that all of the politicans on offer to you either lack ability, are weak, or only in it to advance themselves (these are the reasons you gave Tony) suggests that you claim a moral superiority for yourself over people who dedicate their lives, their efforts and and free time to making the world a better place."
You amaze me, do you know to which candidates I was referring?
The statement you quoted to me refers to those people who were standing in my area. You state I am claiming moral superiority over someone and, while doing so, you give them an image of dedication and selflessness in order to back your claim up. In the real world, you will find that politicians are far from the sainted souls that you paint them. If they were, the newspapers would soon go out of business.
I do have personal experience (this was a reason I gave in my reply, Paul) of the self-serving attitude of one of the candidates concerned.
I repeat, I find it strange that you don't bother to ask me if I voted in the last general election, or in the local elections or if I intend to go through the same examination of the candidates next time before I decide if I should vote or not.
As for taking orders from my wife, she said to say that while we may disagree, we respect each other's views.written 9th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: The 'taking orders from the wife' bit was intended as a bit of freindly chaffing. Sorry if it didn't seem to be.
I suppose I could ask which consituency you live in to see which candidates were on offer. I've had a lot of contact with politicians and I'll concede that there are a small number of constituencies where I would not vote for the party I normally vote for.
But if I lived in such a constituency, I'd look at the other candidates instead. I would say - having met politicans of all of the main parties, that the politican that is not equipped /interested in pursuing the public interest is a significant exception rather than a rule.
They simply aren't all as bad as the press make out. Your comment that 'newspapers would go out of business' if politicians were as honest as I think they are says a lot about your argument. I've met as many journalists as I've met politicians and there is no comparison in the honesty stakes. Journalists are the most untrustworthy and irresponsible profession I've ever come accross - and most of them will acknowledge as much.
Politicians are placed in complex and difficult circumstances and have to make decisions based upon pressures that aren't immediately apparent to the uninitiated. It is easy to criticise politicians, but harder to say what they SHOULD have done in a particular case.written 9th May 2005
Tony replies: Oops, the reply at the bottom should have had a smiley with it ;-) I was attempting humour, something I get a bit short of when the election promises/accusations start flying.
Journalists are the most untrustworthy and irresponsible profession I've ever come accross - and most of them will acknowledge as much.
I'll stick to my principles. As I have pointed out, if there is someone worth voting for next time...written 10th May 2005
Paul Evans replies: There will be. You've got 4-5 years to talk someone that you can trust and share some values with into standing for election.
I'm certain you won't find anyone who agrees with everything you want though. One thing though: I reckon you will be very pleasantly suprised if you join a political party.
You will find loads of your fellow members are unhappy with their candidate and the direction their party is taking - but they are all working to have their voices heard and to change things.
Also, active involvement with a party means that you spend more time with MPs. Often, the responses they give you off-the-cuff mask bigger issues.
I know it all sounds like hard work, but .... it IS hard work. Democracy is hard work. If you want to get the whole country to be run in the way you would like to have it run, you have to make compromises and you have to persuade people.written 10th May 2005
Tiger43 replies: To poster......You have hit the nail, squarely and truely on the head. Lets have more like it.written 11th May 2005