Thursday, 24 January 2013

Lack of Leaders or Why I Understand Abstention

As a fellow blogger noted, in 2013 elections are approaching in Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, Germany and Austria (in that order). Although their outcome is highly controversial, their importance cannot be overstated as they will affect developments in the aforementioned countries as well as in the EU for the next 4-5 years. Electoral campaigns have been raging in Italy and Cyprus and although German elections are scheduled in September, speculation began about a year earlier.

Yet, even though most politicians spend millions of euros trying to promote themselves and/or their parties people's appetite for voting seems to have reached satiety. Young people specifically are not very eager to listen to the same political agendas that candidates have been preaching over the last 20 years. What is worse for politicians is that even those who have been participating in elections and are now middle-aged, appear to be fed up with the situation.

Once you start listening to people, you find out that what they really want is someone they can trust. And they cannot find that in 99% of politicians. People want credibility and reliability; no candidate appears to have it. So it boils down to either voting for the one who appears to be somewhat better than the competition or not vote at all. Which option is the best? Let's have a look at them

Option 1: Vote for the best of the worst.
The essence of this choice is that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is inevitable that one of the candidates (if we are talking about a presidential election which we will assume for simplicity) will be elected regardless on whether we vote or not. There are some people who will vote whether we want it or not, (those being the hard-headed political cronies or fanatics) so the only thing we can do in order for their candidate not to be elected (if it is indeed the worst option) is to vote for someone who is even slightly better than him/her. Yet, if we use this option and the candidate we have voted ends up being the same as all politicians have ever been, or even worse, it is no-one's fault but ours. Worse, we may even know from before what the final outcome may be. The most important consequence of this option is that we are forced to compromise every single time, keeping our needs and ideals hidden, adhering to principles which do not express us and, what is worst, allowing politicians to be the same as ever. It is the same as a pilot not having the map of the airport he is landing and trying to make it up with having the map of another. You wouldn't feel so good being on that plane would you?

Option 2: Do not vote at all
This is an interesting choice which has two possible explanations: either we do not like politics and abstain from them completely or we do not have have any preference on the candidate elections which means we have no motive to vote. Yet, on closer look both explanations seem to converge into one: we do not like the politicians of our country. Thus, we prefer to pass on our right to vote. The problem is that we essentially have given others the right to decide who is going to run our affairs for the next years and we have had no opinion on the subject. We allow our disappointment for the affairs of our nation and the current unfortunate realities to take the best of us and make us give power to someone else. The candidate elected may have been the worst of the lot. Yet, as we did not cast our vote we have not done our best to prevent it from happening. It is the same as saying "I do not care what happens to my relationship" while in fact you do, and feel just disappointed and sad when things get ugly. What is enough for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing.

Joseph de Maistre has stated: Every country has the government it deserves. Is he right though? What is the lesser of two evils as presented in options 1 and 2? You may have guessed it. None. Neither of the above is a valid option. Why? Because people everywhere deserve much better than this. We need someone we can trust, who will (for once) keep the promises made, and make some changes. I think I am saying this on behalf of most Europeans: we have had enough. We do not want politicians fighting on issues and do nothing, we want them to shut up and start working. The world has never changed in words and neither will it ever do. 
Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Probably the most influential politicians of the 20th century

Is this too much to ask? Yet we have not even asked the future generation of politicians to stand on its own. We are tired of hearing the same over and over again. What is the point of being young if you have the same ideas of a 50-year-old? It is what Alex Ghita has dubbed Democratic Masochism. Democratic Masochists are people who belong to option 1; and those who belong in option 2 allow them and their country to remain that way for ever. 

Think about it for a second. When was the last time that some politician inspired you? For me it hasn't been this way almost since I was born. We are currently living in a century whose main characteristic is the lack of great people; people who can inspire confidence and trust. The only bright examples of the current period were the actions of Mario Monti and Antonis Samaras. If Greece, with a series of rotten politicians dating almost since its inception can have a good man running it why not every other country as well? I am not claiming that Monti or Samaras are perfect or error-free. They have done their share of errata. Yet, they are honest, hard-working and do not engage in unnecessary discussions or promise things they do not deliver. In fact, most of the times they did not even promise anything. We should not expect politicians to be perfect. Yet we should expect them to give their best for their country and be held responsible for their actions.

Hope is not to be lost. Better men and women will get into politics and we should be able to move forward with them. Yet, we should not lay idle and not do anything while rotten people are running our country for us. Take action, any way that you can. If people do not start saying what they believe and what they expect no-one will ever give it to them.

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