Democracy is not a spectator sport – get in the game

I’ve always been interested in politics. I was that kid at school that kept banging on about the importance of voting (and why drawing a donkey on your vote is not a good idea). I guess it’s no surprise I manage a Youth Parliament program for a living.

Being an active part of our democracy has always been important to me. Politics is so much more than politicians. It’s about our society, our rights, our education, our health, our safety, our values.

I give a shit about the world I live in, so I vote. I engage in democracy. Simple as that.

But, I just don’t care about politics?

We’re SO LUCKY here in Australia to have the chance to vote for the party we want to lead our country. Millions of people across the world fight – and die – for this cause.

Not caring about politics is a huge privilege. It comes with a responsibility.

Maybe you don’t want to vote. You can choose not to. You’ll get a fine and miss out on a democracy sausage. (Though speaking as a vego, sausages are a sucky way to celebrate democracy).

Politics is frustrating. Sometimes there aren’t good options (and goodness knows this election campaign needs some charisma). It’s very easy to say ‘screw the system’ and avoid the responsibility of living in a democracy.

Voting informally (or not at all) isn’t exactly making a big statement. I get that people are disenfranchised by the system, but looking the other way because “politics is stupid” isn’t being ignorant. It’s a deliberate choice to not care and not educate yourself.

If you choose not to vote because you ‘don’t care’, you forfeit your right to complain about the outcome.

Why should we bother participating when politicians don’t listen?

Don’t get me wrong. I think politicians and government of all levels have a looong way to go before they are engaging genuinely with everyday people in society. There are positive steps, but it’s pretty much all on the terms of those running the ‘engagement’ (and changing engagement from a verb to a noun is the first problem).

It makes it really hard to be part of the process. It’s really frustrating when policies are announced that don’t match the reality you’ve observed. It sucks when screaming at the TV seems more effective than engaging in politics.

I get that. Like most people I get frustrated by pollies. I agree that in many ways, we’re being let down by our politicians and government. We need them to break down these barriers and make politics and democracy accessible, engaging and effective.

But, it’s too easy to say “none of them are good enough” and opt out. Because in that moment, we’re not good enough either.

It’s also my responsibility to take action, voice my opinions and use other democratic methods to get my voice and opinion out there.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

It’s not just something that happens at Parliament House. It is not one sided. Every time we remove ourselves from democracy and speak about it as an external thing that only politicians do, we relinquish some of our power.

Politicians are often called out of touch (anyone else still waiting for their ‘rents to buy them a house?), but are they completely to blame? As our elected representatives, I expect them to represent us, but I also wonder what responsibility we have?

Sure, the system may need fixing, but we all have a role to play. By opting out of the process because it’s not perfect, we contribute to its imperfection.

Get in the game.

Vote on July 2. Care about who you vote for. Do your research. Find out where each party stands on the issues that are important to you. Make a considered decision.

Speak to candidates and representatives. They’re people too you know. And they’re in politics to make change. Talk to them, find out what they care about. Tell them what you care about. Ask them what they’re doing about it.

Use your voice. Heard something that you disagree with? Write a letter. Send an email. Make a phone call. Politicians aren’t mind readers.

Read, watch, listen to the news. Stay up to date. Keep yourself informed.

Contribute to reviews and discussions. Government departments often put out discussion papers for public consultation. Engage. Go looking.

Bring the social. Chat to your friends. Engage in a discussion. Politics doesn’t have to be a taboo subject. After all, politics is happening everywhere, every day. Why not talk about it?

Your voice matters. Use it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s