The power of Russell Brand’s call to apathy in his infamous Newsnight interview had far less hip male columnists spluttering into their thesauruses trying to match his articulation by damning his audacity. What such naked jealousy missed was the genuine pull of Brand’s reasoning.
In a world of gross injustice where mere existence in the West is dependent upon servitude and slavery everywhere else, participating in the fraud of democracy when corporate media exist only to endorse the economic and cultural mythology of the 1% makes one as existentially responsible as the owner of an iPhone suicide sweat shop. Apathy and none participation in such a world is a very reasonable approach in attempting to find some ethical compass, so the pull to not engage in the political process has some merit.
Some merit, just some, because while it is true corporate media lie and manipulate so that this is the political reality…
…to wash ones hands of engagement and sit on the sidelines leads not to moral certainty but to smugness. When one considers how much of the planet are disenfranchised, to not participate because changing narratives is difficult and complex are the excuses of the lame not enlightened.
The Culture of Cynicism that we live in has positives, it distrusts authority and power, but it can also go to extremes. Cameron Slater’s bizarre justification as to why he wallowed in the sewer of Len Brown’s affair was because politicians were all dirty so screw ’em. Such a warped world view is too damaged to take seriously. Cynicism has its place and at times it is justified, but it should never replace the power of hope and the belief that humans are fundamentally good just so one can take an intellectual shit on the effort of trying.
In NZ, we have one of the most representative forms of Democracy on the planet, to pretend that engagement here won’t change things is simply absurd and is the reasoning of the lazy. Brand’s defense of apathy is righteous, but not right, engaging in the democratic process and lending our support to those processes that ensure democracy is as representative as possible is our responsibility and acknowledging that social obligation is far harder than the seduction of just giving up.
Here are the 5 ideas I have to make our democratic engagement better…
1: Lower the voting age to 16 alongside civics education classes in School to start the passion for democracy at a younger age. Taxation without representation is that most heinous of high crimes against citizens and taxing 16 and 17 year olds minus their right to say how that tax should be spent is worth expanding the franchise of democracy all on its own minus the wider social good of allowing the young their say.
2: Allow any voter to go onto the unpublished electoral roll and make the process as easy as ticking a box. So many of our citizens are on the run from debt collectors or abusive spouses that they refuse to enroll so as to not be detected. Any NZer can go onto the unpublished roll but the Electoral Commission goes out of its way to demand all sorts of reasons for it to occur. If the end point is to make it as easy as possible for citizens to participate, streaming this process and making it as easy as a box tick is a priority.
3: Make the date of the election a Wednesday and make it a public holiday. We bitch so much in this country about not having a day we can celebrate as NZers because white people feel so guilty about Waitangi Day, why not search for that which binds us and celebrate that? Election Day should be a celebration because we are one of the few privileged nations around the planet that allows political leadership to change minus violence and repression. Our exercising of the right to vote peacefully is celebration in itself and making it a mid week public holiday would do more for participation rates than any single thing the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review could endorse.
4: The National Party as part of their disgustingly unethical redneck tough on crime posturing passed law stripping prisoners of their rights to vote. Removing a prisoner incarcerated for less than 3 years their ability to vote removes any connection a prisoner might have with civil society. The argument is that prisoners who are inside for less than 3 years should be able to vote because the decision of the election will impact them one way or another once they are released within the lifetime of that Government. Nationals redneck worship by stripping prisoners of their right to vote puts us on the opposite side of the European Court of Human Rights who have argued against this type of prisoner flogging. Their argument is that incarceration doesn’t remove your human right to vote, this is a positron far too intellectual for the National Party who seem more comfortable at farmer shed lynchings than the finer details of how the state should treat the incarcerated.
5: Expand the civics course in schools to immigrant communities and make the course a compulsory part of becoming a NZer so that new citizens know their civic rights and responsibilities.We do our new citizens a terrible disservice by not extending any hand of welcome when they become NZers other than a certificate ceremony. How can we expect them to interact in civil society with all the autonomy citizens have if the history and cultural norms haven’t been explained?
…I don’t think political apathy is a solution, I think it is a symptom.