I live in Islington North. It’s the Conservative voters I’ve always felt sorry for.
Since the war, they may as well not have existed. So they’ve a choice between actually expressing their desires of how they should have the country run in the voting booth — knowing that it really doesn’t matter fucking matter one jot — or putting their vote towards someone who they find slightly less noxious than the other guy, just in hope of keeping the most noxious one out.
I think of an entire life like that. I think how absolutely estranged, alienated and cynical that would leave me. I think of how that poisons someone’s relationship with politics, the community, the wider-social sphere. Not even the idea that your vote doesn’t matter — but that you cannot even feel free to express how you think the country would run out of fear.
I’ve never lived in a swing-borough, but I have to imagine that for what you gain in knowledge that you actually do matter, you lose in terms of the freedom of that expression. Knowing that if you don’t vote for your second choice, the worst option would get in. It becomes the responsible thing to do to be become primarily governed by your fears rather than your beliefs.
The saddest thing about the “YOU MAY AS WELL VOTE X, BECAUSE Y DOESN’T HAVE A CHANCE” electoral leaflets which arrived through your door every election?
They’re right. They’re entirely right, and in the current system, it’s the only sane way to think. You should forget what you actually believe.
That’s what our current system tells us. It’s implicit in it. It’s a poison to us all.
There’s been a lot of intricate debate around AV. There’s also been a lot of openly noxious misinformation. While I’m pro-AV on the facts, I’m also pro-AV for the aforementioned idealistic reasons. I think that’s what has been lost in the debate, and why I’m writing this.
Democracy is both a series of specific systems and an ideal. The system is whatever system any country chooses for putting it into practice. The ideal is that the government will — in some way — reflect the beliefs of the people.
And that’s impossible if they don’t get express those beliefs freely.
The 00s have been nothing but a chain of reasons to be dispirited by politics. As I explained to several American friends who were overjoyed when Obama came to power, that we lack the chance of sharing in that narrative. Our closest-Democract-equivalents were in throughout the 00s, and we know that every hateful thing that they did, everything which lead to massive protest crowds… well, the conservatives would have done as well. Who could we vote for who had a realistic chance of changing it? And then the Liberals have destroyed their political capital for a generation with the deals they made to get the AV vote. I strongly suspected they’ve annihilated their party for the chance of precipitating any systemic change. In their position, I can’t help but to think I’d have done t too. A bad system leads to bad decisions, even in the attempts to change that.
It’s easy for me to be philosophical about the Liberals because I didn’t vote for them. For me, a slightly tempered conservative party is better than the uncut one and systemic change…
Videogames have taught me a few things over the years. One of them is how narratives are shaped. I’m not talking about the pretty fantasy of belief and right triumphing over the forces of darkness. That’s just story, and slapped over the real guts of what actually makes games tick. Games are run by systems. If one attack is best, everyone will use that attack. It’s more apparent (and transferable to real life) in strategy games, where economics will trump most concerns — or, at least, be the minimum level required to achieve victory. And if a game designer wants the player to not concentrate on one attack or one strategy, they won’t say “That’s unethical! Don’t do that!”. What they do is tweak the system to better perform its function.
AV isn’t the ideal system, but it does have one undeniable advantage for the individual’s engagement. AV’s allows you to express your actual beliefs without fear that you will be complicit destroying your life by doing so. In the longterm, I hope that will lead people to feeling more engaged in the political sphere, and hopefully rejuvenate it.
Do I think Yes has a chance? I don’t care about the result, in some way. I wouldn’t be able to bear the idea that I had one chance in my life to directly express my dissatisfaction with the system itself rather than the current rulers of the system, and I decided not to use it for whatever reason I dreamed up.
In the same way if they had a referendum in 1918 on suffrage for women, I can’t imagine voting no or spoiling my ballot because they were deciding whether women should be able to vote at 30 rather than gaining true equality with men. It enfranchises the population? Go for it. They give us blessed few chances to do that than to throw away one spuriously. There is idealism and there is taking a razor to your and your fellows’ face.
The system hasn’t given the people nary an inch since universal suffrage. AV isn’t much, but it’s an inch.
For once in my life, this is a clean single decision, almost untarnished by political reality (i.e. perhaps I’d like to vote Green, but I’d be damned if I’m going to risk having a Tory MP). In fact, where political reality has infringed, it even simplifies it further. This isn’t just a vote on AV, but on serious reform full stop. A “no” takes systemic change off the table for my lifetime. And — frankly — if systemic change is impossible, then there’s no hope for traditional politics in our country. This is a vote on democracy. Do we want it or not?
Thus it’s really rather simple: Do I want the system to change? Do I believe the current system is undemocratic? Do I believe that we become better people if we can express our hopes rather than let the worst of us direct us?
If I didn’t vote yes, down the line I’d end up hating myself. I had a chance, and I fucking blew it.