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Why you don’t have to vote
by Jade d’ Hack
Fuck I could do with a vom right now. Or a feed. Definitely a feed. Fucking Tazza’s up already. Cooking himself some bacon smells like. “Oi Tazza!” / “What, cunt?” / ”Giz us some bacon, oi.” / ”Fuck off, cunt: buy your own.” / ”Aw, fuck ya then.” Fucking Tazza.
Sneak some bacon out the freezer. Yeah, well, fucking Tazza. Someone’s knocking on the door. Some dude standing there. Not hungover. Obviously. Up and at it, 2 pm on a Saturday. Perky fucking cunt. “Hi there!! It’s election day today!! Have you voted yet?!” / “Oh right, um, yeah.” Close the door. Back to the bacon. Cunt needs to get his priorities straight.
We don’t really vote anymore. Most of our generation didn’t bother in the last election, and the way things are looking, we can’t be bothered with this one either. It’s disappointing, apparently. We’re told we’ve let the country down. We’re told we’ve let ourselves down. That we have internalised neoliberal individualism. That we’re all just bloody lazy.
The idea that we have an obligation to vote is an easy idea to believe. In blaming the failed structures of politics on the failed morality of youth, it constructs a narrative within which the baby-boomers cannot do better and are not to blame. It scapegoats, and scapegoating works. No need to reexamine the great democratic promise if the source of all our problems is just some lazy kids. We’re not objecting to their conceit, nor protesting their ignorance. We’re just kinda hungover, ya know?
Screw that. If we feel that our political parties don’t represent us, then it is our political parties who have failed. We have every right to abstain from the political games of the baby-boomer elite. We have no obligation to give them our vote.
They don’t represent us. Universities are graduating us into careers behind café counters, but every year, politicians increase the number of enrolments. Landlords extort us so we can live in rotten houses, but politicians only make it easier to buy. We like getting pissed and we like getting blazed, but they make booze expensive and lock us up for smoking dak. They trash the environment that we will inherit and they borrow money that we’ll have to pay back, money spent on hip operations and cataract removals and SUV motorways and finance-company bailouts. They forbid us control over our bodies. They send us to fight in places we’re not wanted. No, we are not represented.
And this is not our fault. Yes, we are apathetic, but that apathy is the most radical reaction we have when we ourselves are being ignored. Politicians can’t be bothered shaking their minds out of middle-age malaise to recognise that we have problems which are not theirs. They ignore our cultures and our languages, and so cannot appreciate the frameworks through which we examine society. As long as we blame ourselves for not talking their language, their ignorance will be justified. If we must blame apathy, blame the apathy of politicians.
I mean, sure: I understand those who think voting would let us play the game of political bribes. The National Party clings to an impossible superannuation age and the Labour Party wants to give anyone older than 65 free doctor visits. The elderly have New Zealand’s lowest poverty rates and New Zealand’s highest voting rates. It’s obvious which is the cause of the bribes. It’s easy to think playing their game would earn us the same rewards.
But it won’t, because we aren’t really invited onto their court. My grandmother votes because politicians’ pandering lets her obsess herself with the selection of bribes to discard and courtiers to favour. She’s not bribed because she votes; she votes because she is bribed. I cannot play that same game, so I gain nothing from the ballot box. Indeed, to vote when so little is offered would be to admit that I am offered all that I deserve. Look at me; I engage in your civic society, my problems must be solved. No: our tactic must be patient, to construct an electoral incentive through waiting for whomever will actually deal with our problems. When politicians start listening, let us flock to them. Until then, the best we have is our radical disinterest. Aour pathy for the games of the elite.
If they convince us to vote, we will tick our democratic boxes once every three years but we will still be ignored. Perpetuating the idea that voting matters perpetuates the idea that only voting matters, but the narratives which rule New Zealand cannot be voted out in an election. To change them requires a concerted radicalism, an insistence that we will not play the games of the powerful until we are given our agency back.
When we spend election day comatose, it says more about election day than it does about us. They tell us that this is a democratic society and our vote is the most valuable thing we own. But to truly own our vote, it must be our right to throw it away. Until then, the best we have is our radical disinterest, our apathy in the games of the elite.
Why you should vote
by Ted Greensmith
We are so lucky to live in a democracy. You (yes, you!), the always classy Vic student currently reading this copy of Salient, could stand at the side of the road and wave a sign that says “fuck the government” if you really wanted to. This week, New Zealand will be having a general election where you (yes, you!) can have a say about who runs our country. All you have to do is vote!
At the last election in 2011, the party with the biggest vote percentage was the National Party- 30 per cent of New Zealanders gave them their party vote. With 30 per cent, support they went on to form a government that affected the lives, more or less, of every New Zealander. Yet 34 per cent of New Zealanders, who could have voted, chose not to. Can we say that National, or any other party, has a real mandate with so many people left out of the system? The answer is no: absolutely not. That is why it is so important for you to vote.
Lots of people say that there is no reason to vote, because no matter who is in power, nothing ever changes. Children still live in poverty, young people go without jobs, and the economy ends up in the gurgler. Young people under the age of 30, in particular, have the lowest turnout. It is fair to say that we are completely marginalised by the political scene. Let’s admit it: unless you come from a rich family, life is hard as a student. We live in cold damp flats, and we rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt each year. So how is it fair that any party with only 30 per cent support can make so many changes to our lives? Surely the solution is to vote for a party that can make our lives better, and that can connect with us. These parties will never get it right unless we send a clear message telling them what we want. By not voting, you are encouraging parties in power to ignore you.
There are some political parties that do not care about students – parties who would be more than happy to slap interest onto our already massive student loans, crank up our fees and keep our wages low. These are serious problems for students. There are parties, however, that have really fantastic plans to make our lives as students better. Stricter standards for warm, dry flats, as well as universal allowances and free transport. These policies will do a lot to improve our lives as students. But if we don’t get out there and vote for them, then it will be the parties who want to make our lives harder that will get into Parliament, if not government. We have the power to decide our future. It all starts with your vote.
30 years ago, someone like me, a queer guy from a modest middle-class upbringing, wasn’t even allowed to marry the person they loved. The only way that this has changed is by people like you and me voting parties into Parliament that legalised marriage equality. But if people like you and me had said, “It is never going to get better for me, why should I bother?” we would still be where we were 30 years ago. Every time someone like me doesn’t vote, but someone like Colin Craig does, my life as a young, queer student gets much more difficult. Every time a student doesn’t vote, someone like Jamie Whyte, who wants to reintroduce interest back onto Student Loans, does. Every time that a young Māori person doesn’t vote, five other voters will go out and vote for a party that thinks that their language, Te Reo Māori, doesn’t have a place in our schools. We can’t let that happen. I think it’s cool that I can go out and be a part of that process in making life better.
I’m sure the person writing the opposing article will say that there is no party out there that truly represents what you think, so why should you give any of them your vote? The main fault in this argument is that it adopts the complete wrong view of political parties. Parties are made up of people, all sorts of different people with all sorts of different ideas. As a member of a political party, I can tell you that I don’t agree with everything my party stands for; however, I understand that parties are about community. The politicians are only a very small part of a huge community of people who care about a better future for New Zealand. I can assure you there is someone out there who represents you!
If you want free off-peak transport; there’s a party for that. If you want stronger student voices in our University; there’s a party for that. If you want free tertiary education; there’s a party for that. If you want to keep Student Loans interest-free; there’s a party for that. You have a lot more choices than you may think.
Our democracy is flawed because not enough people vote. But if we don’t go out and vote, if we sit at home and hope for a change, then it will never happen. We have to make it happen. It all starts with your vote.