Kacper Niburski / Silhouette Staff
I don’t vote.
I have neither registered as a voter nor do I plan to. I tell myself it’s to avoid the pangs of jury duty later on in my life where I’ll have to listen to the doddering tales of unpaid parking tickets and minor misdemeanors, but I think it’s something much more horrifying than some civilized game of hookie.
If I were to guess at the underlying reason for my failure to participate in the democratic process, I would point to JFK’s 1961 inauguration speech.
Before his brain became nothing more than a scattershot of ground beef, he prophetically heralded the doom of democracy, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
Though these words seem to ring at the very core of political pundits, I think that we may have asked too much. Because in between an assurance of consistent political platforms, cries for transparency, and a desire for egalitarian policies meant to last years into the future, democracy has died.
Whether it is because of indifference, apathy, or general distrust of a nation, I am not sure. Maybe democracy was just a craze no better than the hula-hoop.
But what I do know for certain is that whatever remains, whatever democracy has devolved into, is the gross, general belief founded on individual incompetence and laziness.
At a minimum, it has become a way of herding minds to think, act, and behave in a way that alienates some people and defines others. At best, it is mob mentality.
As voters and civilians, we subscribe ourselves to platforms that are as phony and short-lived as the smiles behind them. Each year, it is the same. We are hammered with ideas left and right: This politician failed to reform the Consensus like he said he would. That one supported gay marriage but now doesn’t. And there’s the politician who ate bacon for breakfast. We are overloaded with what to think, what to say, and what to feel, and so in resistance, we often feel nothing at all.
It was Oscar Wilde who said, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of people by the people for the people;” and like him, we have been hit too often.
We have become numb. Brain-dead. We believe everything. We believe nothing. And we accept both as valid options in a world that makes as little sense as this one.
I’m sure there was a time when democracy, however vaguely that word can be used, meant something. Jump back to white hair, red coats and puffy hats, and you’ll find that it signified that the sum was greater than any one part of its whole, that humanity reclaimed the freedom they were born into, and we weren’t running a circus – our circus – from the audience stands. Back then, we were the lions themselves. The center of the show. The main act. And our roar, when expressed freely, meant something.
Nowadays surrounded by corruption and inconsistency, our cries are muffled under the hardened pillows of the very institution we have helped build. Instead of lions, we have become kittens that meow. We have become nothing short of pussies.
That is not to say any political system is better than democracy, as Winston Churchill famously said.
My parents remind me of this daily, as they retell their angst filled tales of socialism. I will never know their hunger for freedom. Nor will I understand what it means to be jailed for expressing my opinions and being shot at for others. I’m lucky and cursed in that respect.
But they, too, grumble. I see the dissatisfaction in their faces each election.
I see the indifferent shrugs for this candidate or that. To them, though they don’t say it, democracy was a way to null the pain of socialism. Over here, they were finally granted the choice of any drug prescribed to them, whether it was the Conservatives or Liberals or any other party affiliation. But in the end, they all remained just that: drugs.
Like an atheist who invariably dresses up for his funeral, my parents were forced into a system because there were no other options.
That is not freedom. That is coercion. That is democracy.
I know, I know: I don’t vote, so how can I begin even contemplating a political discourse on democracy? How can I, a person who does not participate in the democratic process, complain?
It’s simple because I think the opposite is true: by voting, one can’t complain.
They get what they voted for; that is, a certainty that the governance they receive is no better than what they believe they are entitled to. If I did the same – if I voted – I would be legitimizing the exact failings I am trying to avoid.
But if everyone didn’t vote, would that make it any better? Probably not.
I’m not claiming I have a solution, as any town crier would admit.
Instead, I am claiming that democracy has become a disease, and that may even be insulting to disease.
Because at least a disease ensures to take care of its own kind, and like most people, I can’t help the sickening feeling that I have been left behind at the ballot box.