My son has many fantastic qualities.
Qualities which any parent would be proud of. He likes to wear a sharp suit, he has a wide and varied taste in music and film and he loves to cook. He loved dance and drama when he was younger and for quite some time aspired to be an actor.
Ever since he was little he has been a sensitive sort. Never interested in the rough and tumble of playing with other boys and always more into the arts than sports. We always knew he was a little different.
He wasn’t particularly clingy by any means but he was always up for a cuddle, never afraid to show his emotions or talk to me about anything really. Or so I thought.
I have always tried to instill acceptance of others in my children
I have always taught them that people are different but difference among our community is an opportunity for education. The world is rich and varied and it is all there for them to learn about and enrich their lives hopefully as a result. I once thought that I could accept anything my children wanted to be or do.
All I wanted for them is for them to be happy and to be loved. To be content in the life they choose to lead and know that they are avoiding regrets where possible. Not much to ask?
Our little talk started innocently enough
I had just come home from the shops and Col was doing some washing up. We chatted about his College interview next week. He wants to see the world so he has applied to study travel & tourism with a view to becoming cabin crew. I am incredibly excited for this path he has chosen and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.
Then I asked him something I had been wondering for a while. I asked him had he been old enough, who he would choose to vote for in the General Election next week.
He looked me in the eye and in 1 sentence he said something I could never have expected. “I wouldn’t vote at all”
I didn’t take it well
He went on to say that he felt like his vote wouldn’t make a difference so what was the point? I told him that the point was that each vote makes all of the difference – if everyone decided the same then what would happen?
He said that he thought that governments are corrupt so it doesn’t matter who is in power. He just doesn’t see the point. I tried to reason that if people of his generation didn’t use their vote then there would be no reason for political parties to incentivise them or even consider them when deciding key policies. I pointed out that when we voted for Brexit (which, by the way I did not. Staunch Bremainer here) a high proportion of the youth vote was to remain but over 60% of youths didn’t vote at all. If they had then the result may well have been completely different.
I have always used my vote
Maybe that is why his apathy riled me so much. I have always felt very strongly that the quickest way to lose our democratic right is to not exercise our right to vote. I thought I had always made my feelings on the matter known. But I guess it’s not really my choice. I guess that’s the point.
The funny thing is that I could accept basically any other life choice (aside from maybe declaring himself a nazi but that’s unlikely) but I just don’t see how not voting can be a viable option. These were my reasons for him (when the time comes) to haul his butt into a polling station
People made sacrifices for him to have the right to vote
Suffrage was not just a feminist issue. In fact before the 1870’s the electorate was made up of just 30% of men. Elections were irregular and there was no secret ballot meaning that even if you were eligible by way of property qualification you could still be out of a job or a home if your boss didn’t like how you cast your vote!
Men had to fight and it wasn’t in demonstrations or debating halls. It was the case that during the first world war, men aged 18-41 were subject to conscription to die in their millions for a war that they had absolutely no say in.
There were men who stood against the establishment and through their sacrifices (whether that be their exile or death in squalid prisons) electoral reform was made possible. In 1928 a bill was passed which not only gave the vote to women aged 30 and over but also to all men aged 21 and over whether they owned property or not – this was only lowered to 18 years for all in 1969.
You cannot afford apathy
Did you know that under our current government there is no entry to the “national living wage” until you are 25? It is also the case that only 40% of those aged under 25 come out to vote. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.
If you want issues which directly affect you to be addressed by our government then you cannot afford apathy. Think that not casting your vote is an act of protest? think again. If politicians know that those aged 18-24 will sit out an election they will continue to centre their policies around the people who will vote. Mainly those of retirement age. Sure, we will all get there eventually but why would you want to be largely ignorable until then?
Its not just about policies
The word Democracy is made up of 2 Greek words; Demos meaning people and Kratos meaning power. It literally means power belongs to the people. If people do not participate in democracy then how much democracy will be left to participate in?
I told my son I don’t care how he votes. It is HIS vote to do with what he will; just vote. If you don’t know who to vote for then vote with your heart. Vote for the party you believe will implement a change. Yes of course our various medias have their agenda but if you feel like that then read something other than your facebook feed and make your decision. Don’t leave it up to those who would revel in your losses to line their pockets. Be engaged.
In V for Vendetta, Alan Moore wrote; “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
I believe he was right. The only way to get the government we deserve is to make our voices heard – no matter the age group.
The best we can do as parents is to lead by example. So please, use your vote. Talk with your children about why you are voting. Open a dialogue about what they would vote for, how they would like changes to be made. Perhaps if we engage our children before they are 18 we can change the statistics and push them to the forefront of our governments policies. Worth a try, right?
Mummy & Moose