Evening - as I've stated elsewhere, many thanks to all those in the United States, Ireland and other nations outside of the Uk who are giving this site a go for the first time. I hope you're not disappointed.
I've lived where I have for five and half years - indeed, the last time I voted was in the local and European elections of 2009 (Tory and UKIP before you ask - yes I want us out of the European Union that badly). During the first three years in my current abode, I heard precisely nothing with regard to the electoral roll. Elections came and went, as did the AV referendum, with nothing in the way of 'reminders' that I had the right to take part. Of course, the powers-that-be were entirely happy to take the slice of my income to which they feel entitled, and had no issue whatsoever in tracking me down to do so. At least to some, it's clear as a bell that the taxation that matters far more than the representation. My own personal with regard to voter enfranchisement is that some sort of positive tax contribution over the last parliament should be the principal basis on which people are given the vote or otherwise.
Perhaps if politicians weren't able to pander to the lazy, the useless and those looking to blame all of their ills on foreigners, bankers or whatever, we'd get a less bankrupt form of politics? Discuss...
Anyway, back to the story - in 2013, something changed. I started getting letters in the post, telling me that they knew I was living there and that I was not registered to vote. I binned the curious correspondence, only for a similar note to appear again a few weeks later. Why the sudden interest in my dodging of the draft? It wasn't as if I'd stopped paying my council tax, or had kicked up a fuss about some contentious issue. I may have a view on (say) the use of ratepayers' money to send out Christmas cards addressed from your friendly local council, but have never shared it aloud with someone in a position of authority as far as I know. One Saturday morning, I head off out for something known as 'the vegi hangover cure', which consists of a Margerhita pizza slice and cup of fresh coffee. As I open the door, two council jobsworths are waiting, like Mr Burns' hired goons.
They explain to me (as if I wasn't already aware) that the terrible 'crime' of not being registered to vote is not just illegal, but punishable by a spell in jail. This is absolutely true, and a sign of the warped and dangerous times in which we live. Kick seven shades of shit out of a random bloke in the street, mug a poor and frightened pensioner, break into and burgle some poor bastard's house - i.e. commit a crime against a private person or their property - and you're looking at a community service order, maybe a suspended sentence if Judge Schnyder has it in for you. However, commit a crime against the state, like not registering to vote, or failing to pay council tax and you are in a world of shit. No pleas of mitigation, no references to previous good character, no audience for the suggestion that non-voting is not an act of force, fraud or theft against any other person whatsoever.
Not interested. Do not pass go. Head directly to jail.
Hearing them mention this confirms that they're not joking about actually going through with it. If I refuse to sign up for the draft, then they'll either arrest me themselves (not absolutely sure if they have the power of arrest or not, but it would not remotely surprise me) or rapidly get in contact with someone who does. I'm not a bad-looking dude, with nice enough 'come to bed' eyes and a soft, gentle demeanour - just imagine the brutal treatment someone like me would receive in prison. Within a fortnight my sphincter would probably resemble a cross between a broken catflap and a magician's sleeve. Showers would not be pleasant and relaxing experiences punctuated by Radox and Oil of Olay. On a serious note, I'd almost certainly become suicidal long before ending my sentence for a whole host of reasons. What would sending someone like me to jail, for the heinous crime of not voting, actually achieve?
Faced with the genuine prospect of awkward altercations with Bubba, cowardice kicks in and I sign the forms the two jobsworths have 'helpfully' brought with them. Desperate to get the last word in and convey a false sense of not being intimidated, I tell them I will not be voting in any election as a point of principle and that my main concern was that of registering to vote, getting intoxicated and sticking a black X next to the name of someone, anyone, either for a laugh or by some tragic accident. What if my prank/blackout vote proved decisive where I lived? How on earth could I ever live with myself? So, after all that palaver, I was horrified when another letter arrived on Saturday morning, telling me I had to 'claim' my right to vote, whatever that means. Hang on shithead, I don't forget two twats with clipboards throwing their weight about and threatening me with prison when I've done precisely fuck all wrong.
We're not going through all that again - do your worst, actually send me to jail this time.
I really couldn't give a shit, not now. And the People vs Dazza will make for amazing television, won't it?
I've said previously, perhaps flippantly, that Democracy Doesn't Work. Of course, what I meant in the literal sense is that, seeing as (to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw) "a government that promises to rob Peter to pay Paul can count upon the support of Paul", anybody promising 'more stuff' for people at the expense of others will be sure to enjoy the support of a significant constituency. A democracy is only as good, as honest and worth bothering with as the candidates. If it is reduced to no more than a game based on mob rule and mass bribery where (to this time lift from Jefferson) "fifty one per cent of the people can take away the rights of the other forty nine" then you simply have another form of tyranny with that fifty one per cent acting as the rubber stamp. That an action happens to enjoy majority support at a moment in time does not confer any greater moral rectitude upon it. None whatsoever.
Hitler won elections, remember.
Robert Mugabe continues to do so (although his continued, er, being alive and stuff defies sense, science, rationale and reason - I'm starting to think he might not actually be human...maybe David Icke was right after all?).
I get some of the negative arguments in favour of voting, such as the suggestion that if you go in and spoil your ballot paper then they have to count it and cannot dismiss your non-endorsement of a particular candidate as an act of political apathy. It's also possible to get your head around the concept of voting for the least worst option, for that of being lashed only a dozen times with the cane as opposed to having to endure twenty-four strokes. Nose rubbed in a bowl of piss or a plate of shit? There's some sense in using your vote as an exercise in damage limitation but then, when all's said and done, human waste still wins, doesn't it? I'm not trying to be deliberately crude, merely illustrating that choosing to suffer slightly less than you otherwise might should not then be twisted and turned into a positive, affirmative reason for making the choice you have. A lot of 'use your vote' types fall into this trap rather readily.
Spoiling your ballot paper is an entirely sensible and honourable thing to do, but should be an option in a form of a 'None of the Above' box beneath the list of candidates. If people are really as concerned about 'democracy' as they claim, then it should extend to the right to express a view along the lines of "I've got off the couch and turned up here to tell you that, as far as I'm concerned, you're all a crock of shit and not one of you is worth voting for". NOTA actually won the 2005 Uk General Election decisively, securing a significantly higher percentage of the vote (41%) than a by-then unpopular war criminal Tony Blair or the useless Tories could have dreamed of. Who 'represents' that significant slice of the electorate? Were they all apathetic, as the political class would have you believe, or does a result like that reflect the failings of a system where you 'have' to vote for one of them?
And that's 41% of those registered to vote, remember. We all know people who have gone off-grid to avoid a fine, overdue court appearance, endless junk mail or maybe just a demented ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. The real NOTA figure in Uk elections will be much, much higher than the one admitted openly, and the number dodging the draft of conscripted voting is, by definition, impossible to quantify. Admitting you're one of them means admitting to a crime, punishable by a spell in chokey - they were quite keen to tell me that. The next logical step, mark my words, is compulsory voting, where you will be required by law to endorse not just the process, but one of the candidates. If there's a concept those bastards cannot stand it's that of personal freedom, the right not to vote, to stay at home and register your contempt by opening a bottle of wine instead, or whatever.
'None of the Above' otherwise known as 'the fuck you candidate' will not be an option.
Of course I hate to disappoint anyone who still believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, but your vote is not and never truly has been anonymous - this is a complete myth designed to lull you into believing that nobody follows, monitors or records your voting habits. So refusal or spoiling your ballot will be met with the full force of the state, it will be a criminal offence, easy enough to trace back to you and punishable by a spell in jail. Endorsement will be a requirement for every last one of us much sooner than we think. How a natural dissident possessed of a cowardly and squeamish streak (i.e. someone like myself) reacts in that situation I guess we'll only find out when it comes down to it. When it dawns upon me exactly how close we are to this 1984-style scenario, I wonder how I have not yet turned violent, or at least very nasty, on one of the many half-wits who have argued that "brave people died so you could have this".
I'll keep it short, sweet and as polite as I can. No they fucking didn't, shithead.
If we're agreed that a democracy is only as good as the candidates, then nobody died for your choice between two psychopaths at the voting booth, did they? What people actually fought for, at least in the context of World Wars, was a society in which liberty and freedom were protected from, amongst other things, the whim of politicians and majority 51-49 tyranny. Liberty has NOTHING to do with democracy and indeed it frequently pulls in entirely the opposite direction. I'm clearly in the mood for indulging our new friends from across the pond this evening, so let's have some Benjamin Franklin on that very subject - "democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote". Touche Ben. Liberty includes, amongst other things, the right to do dangerous things that do not endanger others, the right to 'be in a minority', to cause offence, and the right not to vote.
Even on what to have for dinner if you don't want to...
NOBODY voted for the right of two jobsworths, thugs in uniform, to goose-step up to my front door and threaten me with imprisonment because I can't be bothered playing their silly little game every four or five years (ah yes, it's actually five now by law - you get a rotten government and there's precisely nothing you can do about it for five years...and who voted for that again? So much for democracy eh?). I cannot be sure, but I very much doubt that the rebels who brought about the Magna Carta, Roundheads in the Civil War, anti-Corn Laws protestors, the Suffragettes and all who died fighting the Nazis had the 'rights' of this twat with a clipboard in their minds when they did what they did. In fact, I'm almost certain they risked their own liberty and indeed lives in many cases precisely so people like myself would have the reasonable expectation of being left alone by such scum. And I appreciate every last one of them for that effort - I just hope it wasn't in vain.
So how can one say that a 'high voter turnout' is automatically a good thing, if the candidates are a pair of megalomaniacs? How, in that case, is voting automatically a morally (and indeed politically) superior choice to not doing so? And if nobody standing comes remotely close to representing your own views, the choice of 'least evil' becomes an incredibly narrow, and probably somewhat pointless one. How a lack of enthusiasm to make such a cold bath vs cold shower type choice 'disqualifies' you from having an opinion on the government for the next five years escapes me. In that case, there must be some threshold above which your opinion 'counts' more than that of other people. What if you voted for a complete lunatic who got 0.1% of the vote? Or a racist? Or a raving Communist? Was their choice to vote still an 'inherently superior' one to that of not bothering, or did the abstaining non-voter display more political nous by default?
I mean, it's all about getting people engaged with politics, right? Even if they turn out to be Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler...
Personally, I'd rather voters (and potential candidates) of that ilk remained apathetic for all eternity, but I'm just a malcontent...apparently.
Thanks for reading - take care and I'll catch you soon.