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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why the apathetic are so pathetic

Why the apathetic are so pathetic

Published: by The Press and Journal, Aberdeen, 19/02/2011

WHO is going to bother voting in the Scottish parliamentary elections in May? Or, should I say who is not going to bother voting?

The question is: how can anyone be so lazy as to not bother voting when the country is in such a state of disrepair?

It wouldn’t be so bad if people who didn’t vote had some reason for not doing so, say, they didn’t like what they were hearing from the MSPs – if it was the message or the lack of message to which they objected.

The horrible truth is that it isn’t that. Political apathy is ingrained in Scotland’s culture.

“Why bother?” people mumble to one another. They stay at home on this important day, sitting on the couch, stuffing their faces.

Yet, they will quite happily vote for someone to be evicted from a reality show such as Big Brother.

But then to do that, you don’t even have to leave the house.

Unfortunately, the apathetic are very difficult to spot, mainly because they never do anything.

For example, they don't issue a manifesto. They don’t even employ a spin doctor or a spokesman. They would sooner watch paint dry than visit a polling station.

Plato, the philosopher, said: “The punishment we suffer, if we refuse to take an interest in matters of government, is to live under the government of the worst men.” We all know that is true. Lazy voters, absent voters, allow the corrupt and the charlatans to become our leaders. The system does not fail the voter. The voter fails the system.

Small wonder Scotland’s politicians are worried. Small wonder, as its judgment day approaches, the parliament finds itself hunting down the ‘grey vote', the women’s vote – anyone’s vote will do.

Small wonder also that there has been such a mighty rumpus about prisoners voting.

David Cameron admitted that the thought of allowing prisoners to vote made him feel “physically sick”. I wonder if that is because he knows perfectly well that they would not be voting for him.

No doubt, a smarty-pants such as David Cameron also knows that allowing prisoners the right to vote is not in itself a vote winner.

Nevertheless, voting is a basic human right – one reason why every single person in this country should use, not abuse, the opportunity.

It should not be seen as a privilege or a benefit which can be earned or lost. Like it or not, withholding the vote from prisoners is an archaic law which in urgent need of reform.

The truth is that politicians need prisoners to vote because the rest of us can’t be bothered.

Isn’t that pathetic?

So, if you are banged up in Scotland, you can't search for the party which will be nicest to prisoners and put a firm cross on a ballot form. You aren’t allowed anywhere near a ballot box.

Regardless of whether a person is in prison or not, he or she is still affected by the laws and the government of their country.

For this reason alone, like other adults, prisoners should have the right to vote. Prisoners aside, sadly, large numbers of people will not bother this May.

The most important reason for voting should be the mere fact that we can. People, men as well as the suffragettes, struggled throughout history to obtain and preserve the right to vote.

And here we are, thumbing our noses at those who fought to give us this right, just because it is raining or the polling station is too far away.

It is difficult to believe that, in 2011, unemployment is rife and times are hard.

Remember the referendum vote of the 1990s – when we were asked whether we wanted our own parliament or not?

Even then, the big worry was that the Scots might not bother to vote.

Apathy, after all, is a condition which affects people who have been deprived of power for too long – 300 years in our case.

Apathy and indifference have long been marks of the oppressed. Now we are comfortable, thank-you very much.

We have our parliament, so, why bother voting this time around?

No reason, really, unless, of course, you happen to pay taxes, use public transport, drive on the roads, visit a doctor or hospital or have children who attend school or college. These – and many others – are very good reasons to vote.

Had we been our customary apathetic selves where the referendum was concerned, we wouldn’t even have a parliament.

Nor would we have the chance to vote, in our own country, for our own politicians. Think back to the days when non-stop dictats from Westminster reminded us of how powerless we were.

Scotland was that piddling little nation widely considered incapable of making our own decisions.

Yet, now that we have had our own government and parliament for almost 14 years, believe it or not, the spectre of apathy is still haunting Scotland and threatening her future. In fact, life was a great deal easier for the apathetic among us before the parliament.

Back then, the lazy brigade simply blamed the English for everything.

Now they can’t do that. Now we need to get off our large backsides. We need to have our collective say.

The truth is that many Scots refuse to bring about change.

Thousands of people lost their lives fighting for democracy and the right to vote for, and elect, an individual of their choice.

Try reminding yourself of the many millions who died fighting Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito in World War II.

Remember that without their sacrifice, most of us wouldn’t know what a vote was – never mind how to use it.

So, those of you considering not exercising your franchise in just over two months should be ashamed of yourselves. The right to vote earned by all those who spilled blood fighting is sacred.

And voter apathy is nothing but an insult to their memory.

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