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Voting is important!
Democracy is something that people all over the world have fought for tooth and nail… it’s something people are willing to die for, and in parts of the world they still do.
We tend to forget that having the right to vote is a remarkable privilege that we should all exercise whenever we get the opportunity. It’s a chance to make our collective voices heard, and to let our public representatives know what we really think. It’s our chance to have a say in who governs us, to put competent stewards in office who will steer this nation’s course to future prosperity. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Democracy is at the very core of the freedom we experience every day of our lives. So it’s curious that exercising the right to vote in the local and European elections last week felt like such a waste of time. I went along, naturally… but it was more out of a sense of obligation than a genuine belief that by voting I could make a difference.
Am I the only one who finds it discouraging that voting has become an exercise in selecting the best of a bad crop rather than struggling to choose between truly exceptional candidates? Maybe it’s just that, like a big chunk of the Irish electorate I’m disillusioned by the ineptitude of government at local and national level, by a farcical and frankly completely un-viable opposition and by the relentless petty sniping of party politics on issues that should transcend political point-scoring.
We took the children with us to vote… it’s important to expose them to the democratic process… although explaining the intricacies of it to eight- and five-year-olds is a bit of a minefield. I think it’s vital for them to realise early on what voting is, why it’s important and what our public representatives do… or at least what they’re supposed to do… on our behalf when elected into office. They were fascinated by the procedure… the registration, the voting booths, and especially the ballot papers — complete with miniature photographs of the telephone-pole-politicians they’d come to recognise over the weeks running up to the election. If they could they would have taken a few sheets with them for "art".
While on the one hand I recognise the value of teaching children about democracy early on, I can’t help feeling that it’s steeped in more than a dash of irony. Parenting is not, after all, a particularly democratic process.
Yes we encourage them to express their opinions, and consider their welfare in all things… but ultimately the set-up is more of a benevolent dictatorship. We have our subject’s best interests at heart, certainly, but we know best and what we say goes no matter what. They’re stuck with us… and if they don’t like the policies we implement, well, frankly that’s just tough. There are no voting rights in this familial kingdom, no opposition party to usher into office if they’re not happy with the incumbent government. Were it: like it or lump it!
So on the one hand we instil the value of democracy, choice, free will and the power to elect those who govern us… while closer to home we implement a much tighter regime. Democracy in parenting doesn’t really work. Family meetings, debating issues and voting on potential resolutions may be an option as the girls mature — but to be honest I think it would spark the same tempestuous free-for-all then as it would now. Ultimately the buck stops with Mum and Dad. Is that fair and democratic? Perhaps not, but it does work… at least sometimes.