REFLECTING on my earlier years, I can imagine I was not the easiest teenager to deal with.
I was one of those fight-the-system, I know-my-rights kind of adolescent, hell bent on expressing my democratic freedoms… obnoxious I am sure.
One particular freedom fight I remember engaging in was my refusal to vote in my Form Two class election. Every term we had to vote for Class Reps – two classmates who would be in charge of our in class chores (Providence didn’t mess around) and would also act as snitches, relaying our behavior back to our head teacher.
So voting comes around and I found myself neither impressed with the candidates nor the process upon which they were picked.
As such, I decided this was the perfect time to exercise my right to withhold my vote.
Instead of just leaving my ballot paper blank, I wrote a rather detailed explanation as to why I chose not to vote, citing my lack of faith in the candidates and my issues with the system of nomination.
Ladies and gentlemen, my teacher was having none of my nonsense; as she opened that piece of paper the temperature in that already sweaty classroom, skyrocketed to boiling point.
Long story short my tail was reamed, I was forced to apologise to my entire class and cast a proper vote.
It was a dark day for democracy. Form Two had turned into North Korea and I had been escorted to the executioner for defying my emperor’s commands.
Two decades and two years later, my somewhat militant black and white approach to the nature of politics has tamed a little, but my opinion on one’s right to vote or not to vote has mostly stayed the same.
While I encourage voting, I do think it’s perfectly okay not to vote.
Last week the election bell was rung and many Trinbagonians have begun buffing and polishing those index fingers to ensure they are in tip top condition to be stained magenta and displayed with pride come August 10.
Then there are those, who like my anarchist 12-year-old self, are either on the fence or have firmly decided they are not voting.
It should be noted that one of my favourite pastimes is baiting my friends into a political conversations. Their sheer rage and frustration nourishes my dark soul. So naturally with elections in the air I decided to kick that jep’s nest with my three friends at a Covid Regulations Compliant dinner this past week.
The debate centered on the argument that if you do not vote you cannot complain.
My friend argued that should you choose to abstain from the process of deciding for or against a government, you have forfeited your right to openly disagree or complain about their performance, because you failed to contribute to either their success or failure.
It was Form Two all over again and my 12-year-old anarchist self could be felt rumbling in the depths of my sub conscious. FREEEEEEEEDOMMMMMMM!
I countered her stance with the reasoning that the chances are that someone who has decided not to vote has probably done so because they simply had no faith in the options presented to them.
So why should they vote for someone they don’t believe in just to wave an ink stained finger around? Part of our basic rights in a democratic society is to have the freedom to withhold our vote…fist pumped into the air!
You know what? We both had good points and it is really comes down to perspective. I would love to say things got heated and there was a good old Real Housewives of Atlanta type brawl, but sadly we tend to be a bit more classy, we were both full from a ridiculous amount of food and our friend, whose house we were in, would have murdered us if any sort of ruckus woke her baby up.
I will say this though; a large majority of those who have chosen not vote have based their decision on the assumption that no matter what one of the two man parties, whom they are unhappy with, will win. Therefore they have decided it is better to keep their fingers ink free rather than to continue to feed their source of dissatisfaction.
For those voters I would like to say that while the outcome of the elections will most likely end in either a PNM or UNC government, should you find yourself somewhat in agreeance with one of the smaller parties, give them your vote.
Yes, they probably will not win, but your vote helps give them firmer ground to stand upon when contesting the next election and gives them the audience they need to have their voices and fight heard.
Going back to Form Two, perhaps if there was another candidate who I knew didn’t really stand a chance but would have made an amazing class rep, I would have voted for her. I would have given her the leg up to build on herself and hopefully win the next class election. Her success would have definitely been the giant middle finger I was trying to throw up.
But seriously, if you can, vote. If there is absolutely no candidate that you believe can lead our country, stay home. Either way we all have the right to express our concerns, disappointments and satisfactions, which is the true beauty of democracy.