That is the question of my generation, and perhaps many before mine. I live in a country, and era, that perhaps takes democracy for granted -- or, perhaps, sees it for the farce it is. While I think most Canadians of today realize how fortunate we are -- even with our atrocious history and still-present issues -- in comparison to many other nations. And yet, we seem to be realizing, albeit slowly, how poor our options are, how painfully similar all of our alleged options are, and how exactly fucking nothing changes from Liberal to Conservative to NDP -- we are only slightly more or slightly less offended by specific issues. In the end, though, we never see any significant improvements, we never see promises upheld (except, of course, the ones most of us didn't support in the first place), we don't find our living any easier to earn, and we shrug apathetically at our tax increases/decreases/rename it to make it sound betters. And so, we now face not only the issue of who to vote for, but whether to vote at all. Is there any point? Will it make any difference? Or is it just a matter of choosing the lesser evil, which, you know, seems rather...um...stupid.
There are two main perspectives on this, and I'd like to examine them both. Indulge me here, anarchists, your time will come.
The first is the now cliched "if you don't vote, you're part of the problem/if you don't vote, you can't complain about your leader". Okay. Sounds good on paper. But let's look at it carefully. On the one hand, there is some definite validity to it. I mean, until we collectively reach the point of revolting entirely against the system, we are stuck with our three main choices, and a couple of fringe parties. There's no denying this. So, if we don't vote, we are inviting whatever party to take over without even hearing our opinion on the matter. On the other hand, is voting for the party we hate least making any sort of positive impact on our nation? Is picking the lesser evil ever a good thing, when it comes to who is running our country? I, and a lot of others I know, have a large enough issue with the concept of government in and of itself, let alone offering our names in support of who seems the least horrifying.
The other side, then, is exactly that: why should anyone feign support for a party they do not actually want in power? Again, let's look at both sides of this. If one does not feign support and does not vote at all -- what happens? Well, the last 3 elections, voter apathy has led to Conservative minorities, followed by a majority. In the years prior, it led to a Liberal majority. It's up to you to decide which was better, but the fact is, we've experienced both major parties thanks to voter apathy. Now, if we do vote, what happens? Well, the same. We get a few years of Liberal leadership, and a few years of Conservative leadership. And, again, it's up to you to decide which is better.
But, I implore you to be honest with yourselves: does anything really change that drastically from one party to the other? Sure, they are incredibly successful in distracting us with hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage and this or that tax, but, think of your day to day life. Was there any significant difference from one party to the other? Did either party make it easier to feed your family, save for your retirement, send your kids to university? Do you recall which party made your rent easier to pay, which gave you subsidies in child care, which made higher eduction easier to seek, which defended rights and freedoms that you hold dear? Which upheld promises that actually meant anything to you? If your answer is "neither", or "I don't remember", welcome to the club. And welcome to the dilemma.
So, to vote or not to vote? Or, is there perhaps a third option we are overlooking? Is there a third option we are too afraid, too apathetic, too lazy to carry out? Is it, perhaps, time to say fuck this, and revolt? I know, I know, the word "revolt" is a scary one. It is generally associated with war, and military intervention, and throwing flaming things at random buildings. But this is not the only possibility. There is the option of peaceful revolution. There is the option of coming together, of rejecting our imposed options, of choosing our own concept of governance. There is the option of self-sufficiency, of taking back control of our own lives, of collectively agreeing on a way of life. And yes, I know how naive, how idealistic, and how far-fetched this sounds. If it weren't, writing this wouldn't be necessary. But, at some point, we are all going to have to face the fact that this isn't working. While we argue over issues like gay marriage, what to call a Christmas tree, and what repulsive images should or should not be on cigarette packages, tens of thousands of kids are waiting to be adopted. Hundreds of thousands are living below the poverty line. Natives are living without clean drinking water. Countless people are living on the streets. Racism runs rampant, more often than not exemplified by people in positions of authority. University education becomes harder and harder to afford (by my last calculation, it will cost me approximately $100 per credit to obtain my degree, and because my partner makes a decent wage, I have the choice between lying to the government, or not qualifying for student loans, which would ultimately lead me to an insurmountable pile of debt anyway). Hot-button issues are used intentionally to divide us, when all most of us really want is a decent wage, the ability to feed our families, and a day off now and then.
Now. What do you want to do about this? We can continue to ignore the problem, continue to vote for the lesser evil, for whoever shares our stance on homosexuality, or a 1% tax increase, or putting a nativity scene on the government lawn, or we could come together and discuss the issues that actually effect our day to day lives, and what we want to do about it. We could realize, finally, that this country is ours, not theirs. We could admit to the atrocities that led to where we are today, and make a genuine attempt to open a dialogue, and a community, with the entire nation of people. We could stand up and say this isn't good enough. We could demand that we solve problems that really matter, and say fuck it to those that don't. I don't know about you, but I don't give a fuck whether Harper says "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" in his December address. I don't care one iota whether our tax is called GST or PST or HST, it's still fucking tax. I don't give a shit when some old, rich, white guy thinks life begins in the womb, or what his opinion of my gay neighbour is. I care that kids are fed. I care that needs are met. I care that there are jobs to be had, education available, and rent prices that the average human can afford. I care about equal rights, about equal opportunities, about a fair sharing of resources. I care about global responsibility, about the well-being of every individual. Again, I am well aware that this sounds hopelessly idealistic: but how else can we look at our future? Can we make any progress looking at it with cynicism, and an apathetic "what can I do" attitude? Fuck that. I choose to see things as abstract. As changeable. As moveable. I choose to believe we can overcome our apathy, and create the world we want to live in. I choose to believe we can find the courage to say fuck you to our alleged leaders, and lead ourselves. And I choose to believe that you can make this choice, too.
The question is not "to vote or not to vote", the question is "to live, or to submit". Which will you choose?