Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Right to Complain

"You have to vote."

For years I was told this by friends, colleagues, and family members. And whenever I pressed for more, whenever I asked why I had to vote, I was always provided with the same explanation.

"Well if you don't vote, you have no right to complain about the government."

Seriously? That's your reason? You vote just so you have the right to complain?

What a load of bullshit. What a stupid goddamn explanation. I don't get angry much these days but remembering how this line was delivered to me time and time again by otherwise intelligent, fully earnest and well-meaning individuals makes my blood boil.

First off, I can do what I want when I want how I want.

If I want to complain about the color and texture of sand, or the taste of paprika, or the government, I will. I don't need a permission slip; I don't have to vote first: all I have to do is will myself to complain and voila! the complaints come pouring out of my mouth.

I'm sure some people are like "But how did he complain if he didn't vote? I thought you had to vote in order to complain. He must be a wizard or a warlock or something."

It's not magic, people. Anyone can complain about anything. The whole "don't vote; don't complain" thing is a false equivalence. You're trying to connect two things that aren't related at all.

Listen: maybe I didn't vote before because I could tell how shitty the political system is and how little our votes matter.

Trust me: I brought this up before but all I got back was "Urrrhhh. well then don't complain."

I'm 32 and I've yet to vote in a federal election. Am I proud of this? No. In fact I'd be ashamed if I relied on the past for present-day validation.

But I don't. As you all probably know by now, I give zero fucks about the past.

I know I was wrong to abstain from voting for the last 14 years but being ashamed or regretful isn't going to change a damn thing.

I'm aware of my mistake and I learned my lesson. Now I can move on with a clear conscience.

Come October, I will vote.

No, I don't think my vote is worth much of anything. And no, I don't like any of the political parties playing for seats.

I still think the system is broken and doesn't accurately represent the masses.

I think we have the illusion of choice and no real choice at all.

So why am I voting now after so many years of abstinence?

Because I discovered a few intelligent answers to my question. Here's a good reason to vote:

Or how about this: When you skip voting it's not rebellion: it's surrender.

Basically any reason other than "If you don't vote you can't complain" will do.

Seriously, that's the worst possible argument conceivable. Not only does it make no sense at all, it's also a masterful piece of reverse psychology.

If I tell you you're not allowed to do something, what's your immediate knee-jerk reaction?

"You can't tell me what to do, buddy!"

Or better yet: "I'm not allowed? Watch me."

"Oh I have to vote in order to complain? Watch me abstain from voting and complain louder than the next guy." 

And if that's actually your reason for voting--so you can complain about the government--doesn't that sort of illustrate my point? Isn't that symptomatic of a broken system? 

Shouldn't your reason for voting be something like "So I can elect the best candidate to represent me?" 

Just some food for thought. 

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