Today I was having political discussions with somebody who, yesterday, asked me if a prominent Canadian politician who died a year ago was still alive. Needless to say she doesn’t keep on top of things, particularly since she couldn’t name the politician but said “that majority party leader guy…” when he was the leader of the Official Opposition, very different from a majority party. The topic came up because she only learned through an e-mail newsletter of a professional organization that the Canadian penny is ceasing production and cash transactions (but not electronic transactions) will need to be rounded to the nearest nickel. I brought up how that was announced much earlier in the year, a cause that my Member of Parliament from the Official Opposition has been advocating for a long time. The Conservative government has usurped that as their own Something To Be Proud Of, instead of credit ever being given to someone from the New Democratic Party. At that point, she asked the “that majority party leader guy” question. She’s not one to keep up on certain issues.
Our political discussion today was of matters beyond elected representatives and bills passed in Parliament and more of a principle-based dialogue. She has principles, and she’s certainly not dim or uninformed in them. In a roundabout way she implied that she doesn’t vote, nor sees a point in voting with the corruption that is evident across “free” countries as a whole. That’s why she doesn’t pay attention to most current events.
I can’t force her to vote and neither can our government. (In some “free” countries, the government can and does force people to vote – e.g. Australia.) I still choose to listen to her opinions in spite of her lack of participation in any political activity or movement. Some people wouldn’t. Some people maintain that if you don’t vote, you aren’t justified in complaining about politics. I suppose she isn’t complaining or criticizing politics in the elected-government sense, but she has opinions on the things she has selected to be informed on, but when the not-voting has been uncovered I’m sure many people would dismiss what she’s already said, and/or stop listening. That will do nothing to sway her towards voting, have her change her mind, or enlighten her to the ways in which she can help to effect change in the problems she sees and we all see.
As I’ve matured in the time since adolescence and my university years, I’ve broadened my perspective or changed my mind on many principles. Perhaps there’s somewhere on paper or on the internet (likely from more than seven years ago, mind you), where I’ve criticized any cosmetic medical procedure as being vain, or a woman’s traditional homemaker lifestyle as anti-feminist. I don’t stand by those opinions anymore, because, in the first case, I myself may pursue cosmetic surgery one day to undo damage that isolates me and my external features from the majority of the population, and in the second case, the more I’ve read about a history in a variety of contexts the more I’ve realized that “jobs” and “income” and “employment” are the patriarchal concepts that are used to make homemaking seem negative to gender equality, and not the other way around. Since I’ve opened myself to ideas and changed my mind on some things, perhaps opening myself to political discussions with those who choose not to vote will sway me to a broader and more enlightened, inclusive perspective on other issues.
I still think that voting is important even for those who hold the opinion of its futility. I still think that protesting is necessary in spite of those who scoff at it as ornamental and ineffective. Her point is that there is an expiry date on functioning free democracies and she thinks that has gone, and something needs to crumble before her actions can mean anything. Amidst the movements and revolutions and growing pains of democracies around the Arab world or the economic statements and reactions of citizens of Eurozone countries in financial danger or the Occupy movements with their initial spark, there are signs and inspirations that perhaps we can make things crumble, and perhaps only the institutions that have solidified inequalities and oligarchies without applying ideologies drastically different from those that include some level of free enterprise. To get that momentum we need to listen to both those voices that actively speak out at political events, and those that don’t for whatever reasons they may have. We all have to live in this society. Those that do so day by day and keep to themselves shouldn’t be excluded from the dialogue of change, whether they vote or not. My opinion in this area has changed.