Voting avoids tragedy
I refer to the Express column “Yearning to vote” by Michael Harris (October 21) and two letters which support his view. I wish to put forward a different position since this is a very important discussion for our society.
There are three key points in his view: the first is that the parties ought to convince him they will perform honestly, transparently and in the interest of the entire nation before he votes. The second is that campaigns are contemptuous of us as citizens and deny us the capacity to entertain serious discussion so as to make a decision based on critical judgment. The third is the continuous run-off of elections until the magical point of a candidate getting more votes than the NOTA (none of the above) option.
The first argument is flawed since it assumes the status quo is perfect with respect to his list of attributes. Clearly he does not believe that, given his other writings. It also assumes that to change the status quo we either have to get perfection or take no action. But taking no action/not voting is taking action—we would have decided the status quo is fine enough for us. It also ignores the reality that some interest groups would have already voted by way of their contributions; in fact they are like the bookies that rig cricket matches. The only antidote to that insidious influence is the organising of the unorganised masses.
This is where Lloyd Best was with the “big macco” senate. Failure to vote is to yield the control of the nation to well-organised and funded special interests groups that may not be aligned to the well-being of the rest of us. Witness the massive unprecedented transfer of wealth that has increased in speed over the years.
We have to keep them honest once elected. That is our job, our ongoing work. Here is where I would defend your “voice” even though you do not vote.
As a nation, we are finding our voice both through the election process and between elections. The parade of governments is our way of saying “not you, next!” as Patrick Manning found out. The rising up of people against Section 34, the sobering effect of Tobago, the screeching recognition by Government ministers of the plight of Sea Lots, the Chaguanas West vote were all examples of our voices.
Monday’s results are yet another one which our media pundits and politicians would recognise if they would reflect before speaking. In a sober moment, the United National Congress would understand that to retain only its base is to regress past Basdeo Panday, and it has to wheel and come again.
While the pundits have uniformly condemned the character of the last campaign, as does Harris, I do not. This show has laid bare the reality of what really takes place behind and within the Cabinet. We now know how decisions are made, how deals are set up, and can reach an opinion about the leadership. This aids us, the voters, in how we ought to vote.
I am quite surprised Mr Harris expects the politicians to package this information for us so that we could have discussions. That is not their job; that is our job. Their job is to convince the mass voter he is best served by them. The voter’s job, aided by the media, is to break down the information and decide what to believe or not believe. Serious discussions are taking place in barbershops and in taxis and in workplaces. The people are getting smarter each election.
With respect to the NOTA option, this sounds appealing but is not practical. Self-interest is what drives the individual voter. We can dismissively call it “eat ah food” but at the end of the day, unless the intellectuals can package their thinking about the society a la Eric Williams, we will not change the society.
The place is longing and casting about for a person/team with a vision as to where we could go. That is the wind under Jack Warner’s wings—the people will look for their salvation from wherever it comes. Maybe Keith Rowley understands that now, and that is probably why he was so sober on Monday night. A vote matters.
Votes and voices make the government of the day stand up and take notice and correct its course of action. We have learnt that in this country and until we find the right grouping there will be continuous protests, more experiments with political parties and lots of things for Mr Harris to write about. I just hope he won’t get it wrong too often.