To vote or not to vote – that is not a question anymore

It’s election time in Canada again and I can’t avoid pondering matters political. Nothing much has changed from the last election it seems, and therein lies the question. Will there be voter apathy this time too? Too many people saying, “Well, it’s the fourth election in seven years and it will end up with another minority government, so why bother?” After all, the debates were ho•hum, the attack ads are back in force, the politicians appear on TV with backers dressed in costumes and looking more like props than supporters, funding promises are doled out in copious quantities, many never to be honoured post•election, and scandalous stories pop up along the campaign trail only to be drowned and forgotten in the tsunami of tweets, e•mails and other info bytes sent from party offices to clog our PCs and PDAs. And over in another part of the world people are fighting bloody battles and dying for a whiff of democracy.

Will I still go out and vote on Election Day? Of course, I will. And I will be available to give people a ride to the polling station in my riding if need be. Voting is not a choice any more, it is a duty. A duty brought home to me not from within this easy•going country but from the countries fighting for democracy at this time in history. There seems to be a sudden awakening by the citizens in nations suppressed by despot rulers, and the smell of democracy is in the air in those places. This phenomenon is similar to what happened to the colonies following WWII, when they agitated for freedom from their colonial masters, who had themselves been weakened by the two global conflagrations of the last century and were finally willing to let go. These periodic eruptions for democracy are necessary it seems to release us from the countervailing force of suppression that comes in the form of colonizers and despots, and perhaps Martians next! But after the threat is behind us, we return to trivial pursuits, and ensconced in our democracy, we forget!

As much as mankind is hard•coded for greed and power, we also seek structure, hierarchy and social harmony. As much as we play rough and tumble in the fields of sport, commerce and life, we need someone setting the rules and acting as referee, like in our beloved game of hockey. A good and fair government is our referee, setting the rules and administering them. The referee does not play the game, we do, but there is no game without a good referee either. On Election Day we will be voting for our good referee.

What bothers me about voter apathy in the developed world is not that we will not get a new government—minority or otherwise—but that we will lose a government. Democracy demands constant vigilance, or we will lose it when those in absolute power slowly dismantle the franchise with cuts in the name of economic growth, defence, deficit cutting or other ruse, while we, the apathetic voters, sleep at the switch.

Yes, I will pump a full tank of gas into my car and drive around offering people free rides to the polling booth, and even chastise them for not getting out and voting—my gesture towards retaining democracy in our cold but complacent country. I’d rather do that now than have to run around on a near empty gas tank later, brandishing a gun, and trying to regain a squandered democracy, like those poor souls in North Africa are attempting to do right now.

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