(A couple of really long ones today and tomorrow. Grab some snacks)
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For months, the Indian public has been pre-occupied with one major issue – the General Elections (due to start in three days).
Every conversation in every place inevitably turns round to this one topic. Impassioned speeches are made to family, friends, and colleagues informing them who they just vote for and just why they should do so. Angry denunciations have destroyed relationships, banners have been waved, clothes have been torn, insults have been tossed, threats have been implied, and Serious Oaths are being sworn. Media channels have been provoking intemperate remarks that they can then report on in shocked (shocked!) tones.
In short, it’s as if everybody has swallowed a gallon of opium mixed with an energy drink.
There is no consensus, of course. There never is, in any true democracy. But in a country this big and this varied, there’s less consensus than elsewhere. There is considerable excitement, determination, and a fair bit of trepidation, but everyone is determined to be part of it. Everybody’s determined to vote (an estimated 120 million for the very first time), because they’re determined to push their preferred candidate and party into power.
So people will troop out to the booths and sign on the register and press the button and get the mark and say hey ho, I have reaffirmed my value as a citizen and am perpetuating this wonderful system called democracy. I have a voice and a choice and I can exercise it freely. Today is a most scrumptious day and the world is … hey you!
Yes, you! Why are you lounging around? Why haven’t you voted yet?
I’m not going to.
What do you mean you’re not going to? You have to vote! It’s your duty. It’s part of your compact with society. It’s … oh nice, walk away why don’t you. You are scum, you. Fine, don’t vote. But then you also abrogate the right to criticise anything that goes wrong. Because no vote, no opinion.
Uh-huh. Two things about that.
First, it’s not my duty to vote – it’s my right to. I can vote, but that does not mean I have to.
Because a choice between a thug and a thief is no choice at all.
Because a choice between someone with a personal agenda and someone who only has “good intent” and no ideas is even worse.
And because the lesser of two evils is always – always – still an evil.
Secondly. This is what has been happening in every country that has managed to overthrow royalty over the centuries. Power has been taken away from one bunch of people and handed to another, simply because they’re personable or they look nice in tight pants or because they promised to be good, truly-wuly, and to make things oh-so-much better. People have voted, and then gone back home and two days realised they’ve chosen an utter shit and they can’t do anything. Till the next time they can vote. And vote they do, because this time surely it will be better, right? Right?
…truly, we humans learn nothing from history.
In hundreds of countries over hundreds of years, people have given some random stranger (oh face up, just because you see their face on TV doesn’t mean you really know them) control over their destinies. And how well has that worked out, eh? How many politicians have not swindled away banks-full of goodies? How many politicians have not utterly disappointed the people who put them in charge? How many regimes have gone from being populist to autocratic? How many ‘dynasties’ have been formed that simply pass on ruling rights from decade to decade? How many?
Ok time’s up. Put down your pencils and review your answers. And weep.
I reject this system.
I refuse to believe that there is no other way.
I refuse to believe that there is no scope for considering alternative systems.
I refuse to believe that my choice is limited between royalty and military and politicians.
I refused to pretend that the sensible working concept of village councils can be expanded into a system where one person is responsible for millions.
I refuse to accept the premise that qualifications and references and proofs of experience are required for every other job in the world**, but control of my, my country’s and my world’s future should be handed over to somebody who can merely orate well.
I refuse to put a cross on a piece of paper and con my conscience into believing that I’ve done all I could, when all I will have done is have added to the problem.
I refuse to be complicit in a system that is designed to fail.
I refuse to vote unless there is a real option.
Because this is a democracy.
* Don’t tell me this not a word. It’s right there on your screen. Ergo, it’s a word. You may not accept it as a word, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one. It just means you’re a segregationist. Shame and fie on you.
** Apart from being a parent.