Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ZenTiger Voter apathy versus government apathy

From the DomPost last month:
It is tempting at times to think that democracy is wasted on New Zealanders.

United States president Abraham Lincoln once defined this special form of government as "government of the people, by the people, for the people" but in this country, democracy sometimes bears no more than a passing resemblance to that description because "the people" refuse to play their important part in the process.

Last week, the Electoral Enrolment Centre issued research showing that two of out three Kiwis do not know when this year's local government elections are due – it's October – and one in three does not know how to cast a vote (psst, it's via postal ballot).

Murray Wicks, national manager of the centre, sounded exasperated: "The level of ignorance ... is incredible". He is right.
He has noticed the symptoms, not necessarily the cause. He has noticed the sickness, not the source of the disease. He has noticed the cake but not the recipe.

New Zealanders have turning moaning into a blood sport. But when it is time to do something about whatever has got their goat, they revert to apathy, and then moan again later when what they term a vocal minority wins the day.

Mr Wicks' frustration is understandable. What more must the centre – and those who care about civil society – do to get New Zealanders to take an interest in a system of government that people in other countries, such as Iran, are prepared to die to win? Seldom has the aphorism "familiarity breeds contempt" seemed so apposite.


Our forebears – those who died in foreign wars to keep the West free from tyranny – must despair at their descendants' indifference.

Whose indifference?

Before we get too carried away worrying about a natural portion of apathetic voters, we must also consider the apathetic, indifferent and uncaring government.

The anti-smacking referendum returned a record result, with a clear majority (88%) and the government ignored it. Not only did they ignore it, but they failed to appreciate it was one of the issues that helped propel them into government, as the vote from the previous election was as much about turfing labour out as getting National in.

And let's not dwell on democracy, as it sets a goal of encouraging the apathetic and ignorant to prove their ignorance by voting according to the whims of the media's preferred party. The focus must instead be on citizen participation, and the changes government needs to make to improve participation are to do more with transparency and access to government information than voters ticking a ballot paper every three years. We have the capability to engage directly, and for this to happen, government must be less apathetic about the changes it needs to foster within its own bureaucracy.

Once we give citizens the sense that they can change things, that it is worthwhile to participate and that the elected parties will adhere to their well advertised party manifesto, then perhaps we can turn the above result around. That is the kind of change we need, not approval for another 20 million dollars to advertise to the apathetic and ignorant, because it's the despondent and resigned that require more assurances than a 30 second commercial.

Voter apathy makes a farce of democracy - apparently

4 comment(s):

KG said...

"...because it's the despondent and resigned that require more assurances than a 30 second commercial."

Anonymous said...

The only logical conclusion is that the government is taking marching orders from someone else, who's voice is more important than that of the people. And this someone apparently has the power to push very same agenda all over the world with similar laws being pushed in very similar way.

Did you know for example that an "anti family violence" law, that lets social workers practically take kids away from parents at will was just introduced in Poland? And it happened despite polls showing consistently most of the population is against it. And same thing is happening in Ireland.

This someone's agenda is anti-Christian, anti-family and anti-life. It is the agenda of an overall enemy of humanity. Don't we know of someone, who is the "Prince of this World" and "Father of all lies"?

Anonymous said...

So the Dom Post argument is that if you don't vote you can't moan about the result?

Excuse me while I get back to my moan-free apathy.

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Wolnosciowiec!

Great to have you visiting our blog. I'm always curious to know what is going on in Poland.

It looks me that since Poland is now part of the "free world", all of our great social achievements are going to be pushed your way as well.

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