Tuesday, 29 November 2011

You're Right to Vote

Last weekend a general election was held here in New Zealand. Back at work, people having been asking me, 'Did you vote?' I am amazed by this question and simply answer, 'Of course!'. Apparently one third of the the eligible voters in this country didn't - that's about a million people. That's something I don't understand.

The fact that the party I didn't vote for and the one I despise is back in power to 'govern' (their manifesto includes privatisation, ditching workers' rights and breaking up unions) for the next three years, is not the point here. The point is that our ancestors fought World Wars so we could live in a democracy. Men and women died so that we could vote.

It is your civic and moral duty to vote. Many who didn't (mostly in the 18-25 bracket) say they don't care, couldn't be bothered or were too lazy. They claim no interest in politics and say it doesn't affect them. They might change their mind when they can't get a job, or (more likely from the sound of most of those interviewed) a benefit; when they can't afford to feed their children; can't plug in their laptops or express their opinions - if they have any, because they probably are too lazy to form them.

Perhaps if they forfeit their right to vote they should also forfeit their rights to citizenship: freedom of expression, assembly, peaceful association, thought, conscience, religion and belief; freedom of movement and residence; freedom from discrimination. And why should someone who can't be bothered to vote be entitled to benefits, education and the right to a fair hearing by an unbiased-decision maker? All of these civic rights are paid for by the tax-payer, who votes to give the government a mandate on how to distribute those taxes.

I am playing devil's advocate somewhat here; I will always vote to protect the vulnerable, which I feel is my moral duty not just as a citizen but as a human being. Those who don't vote should be ashamed of themselves. That used to carry some weight. For the selfish individuals who care nothing about their fellow man or woman, they will probably just smile and shrug. Who am I kidding; with an attitude like that, they would probably only have voted National anyway. 

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