There is a famous line in the history of American television drama; ‘Decisions are made by those who show up’. This show talks about freedom of speech, how we as a people in a democracy have a responsibility to take actions that determine how our country functions and especially, how we are privileged that no matter what our gender, colour, beliefs, ways-of-life and education are, we are each given the use of our voice and a vote.
Of course, I am talking about The West Wing.
As I am home from uni and with some time on my hands, I am reacquainting myself with Josh, Toby, Leo, C.J. and President Bartlett, along with John le Carré’s exquisite work, The Night Manager. Nothing like a bit of light reading and entertainment to get you into a summery mood. Yet, they both have been excellent food for thought during this never ending, voyeuristic experience of the lead up to the EU referendum.
Don’t worry, I am not here to scare monger, nor am I here to reveal to you my vote, thanks to the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. This is for two reasons: frankly it is no-one’s business to pry or poke anyone into revealing their voting tendencies. Feel free by all means to shout your allegiances from the roof tops if you’re comfortable with that, but there is no longer any legal requirement to do so. Secondly, I love having an impartial debate and forum to discuss ideas, so let’s just bear this in mind as we continue on from this preamble.
The line ‘decisions are made…’ has several roots, Truman being one.
I however am not going to get into the particulars of it’s source. As far as this is concerned, Jed Bartlett, a fringement of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant mind, said it. It is one of the most relevant points that was ever made regarding voting, not only in The West Wing but in the whole of democratic politics, in the west, over the past twenty years.
In my notes for this post, I ended up comparing the function of the quote in a democracy, with going to the local deli to choose a sandwich. Bathos? Yes. Relevant? Of course.
Bearing in mind they were written around 11pm last night and I was rambling to myself, this next bit may not make much sense. Bear with me though.
If you are in the middle of a hard day’s work and you fancy some food, do you go to the deli and choose what you want or ask someone who is already going to pick you up something. The chances are that you will go, pick, choose and eat the sandwich you decide upon, if you’re anything like me, because sending someone else to pick out my food is a big risk. What if they get you a sandwich with white bread instead of brown? Or instead of mayonnaise they use margarine to compliment your salad sandwich? Would you be happy enough if the order you placed, or the food you wanted, came differently to what you had imagined? I know that I wouldn’t. As my mum has always mentioned whenever I didn’t do a job she needed done to the standard which she expected, ‘if you want the job done, do it yourself.’
Now, I am not blaming anyone for getting me the wrong sandwich, neither is my mum after I didn’t do the job correctly. Sandwiches and odd jobs can be remade or done over. This EU referendum cannot be ‘fixed’ in three weeks, three months or thirty years time.
What get’s my goat with elections, especially in good old Northern Ireland, is that there are so many people who think that we, the electorate, are never heard. Until recently there was no opposition in Stormont and this complaint was (and can still be) relevant, as there is hardly any major news about the daily goings on in the NI assembly due to a lack of debate, oppositions and frankly, arguments within the chamber. However this is different in the case of June 23rd, 2016.
In this referendum, all of our votes matter.
Whether you’re black, white, Christian, Muslim, man or woman, what you have as a British citizen is a right and an obligation to get down to the polling station, make a decision and then cast your vote.
This is the biggest political decision that all of us will ever make and especially us ‘millennials’ who were born from the 1980’s up to 2000. We are the generation that will be most affected economically, politically and socially from this vote. Whether we remain in the EU or leave, our jobs will be affected, for better and for worse on both sides of remain and leave. Our children will be affected, our healthcare will be affected, our education will be affected, our student loans, our bursaries, our social lives and our pensions will all be changed whether we remain or leave the EU. How do I know this? Because we live in a democracy and this is what it does.
Evolving. Changing. Growing, shrinking, emerging, surging and so much more.
Our country, the whole UK is crying out for involvement from all of her citizens. Not just the Young Democrats or the Labour Youth movements, with their selfie sticks and internet savviness. Not just the local representatives, who frankly have no idea about what they stand for part of the time because their constituents only kick up a fracas whenever there is something that they don’t agree about happening in government.
This is why the referendum is good for the country. It has generated debate among all social positions, races, genders, ages and many more. Maybe it is because there is a Presidential race happening over the pond from us, or maybe it is because this is an issue that people genuinely have an interest in. It doesn’t really matter why we are talking: what matters is that people are talking.
There are debates outside of the TV studios and debate societies, people are reading about the short and long term impacts of the leave and remain campaigns. For the first time in years, people are taking an interest on what makes the patchwork unions between the countries in the UK work. Well, not really the first time, Scotland started the debates last year with their vote to leave or remain in the UK – thanks for getting the ball of democracy rolling on that one guys! Not even a peep for major calls of violence and bloodshed from over here in Norn Iron along with the debates, proof that we all must be growing on from hitting the nearest person to us, when they knock us over or tell us off. Good job humanity.
‘Decisions are made by those who show up.’
The Telegraph has just released a poll this afternoon with the remain camp up two points on the leave camp. They’re predicting that there is a 51% remain vote tomorrow with a 49% leave vote. However, I have not sat here for the past day and a half thinking about what to write in this post about who you should, or should not, be voting for. There are really more pressing matters that I need to deal with, like doing the laundry, vacuuming the house or getting up to my meeting in Ballymena that is starting in twenty five minutes. This lecture, that sounds like a poli-sci talk from someone who has only read about such matters, is to encourage not to preach.
Your vote matters.
Your vote counts.
You have to make a choice about what you think is right and if you decide that not voting tomorrow is right then you cannot, will not and shall not be allowed to complain about how the election turns out.
Going back to my sandwich analogy, if you get the wrong sandwich because you didn’t want to get up, then what is the point of going over to your mate who made the call with the bread and mayo, to demand why on earth they got the two things that you didn’t want? You may as well walk into a factory, go to the manager and say ‘Hey! Excuse me! Yeah this product, it doesn’t work for me, can you just go to customer service and they can fix it for me,’ instead of picking up the phone to call the number, be put on hold for most of the day and finally get your problem sorted out.
It’s nuts! This country, no sorry, this culture in the west of throwing your hands up and complaining as soon as the going gets tough with calls of ‘I didn’t even vote because it’s nothing to do with me’ does not make up a useful democracy.
Winston Churchill once said that democracy was the best of a bad lot. It’s the only one that works, unless you think that the Soviet’s hit is bang on with communism and that Terrorists who rule with religious zealous tendencies, that are as far removed from their actual religion as the KKK were from ‘real’ Christians in America, set a brilliant example of living in terror and fear of what their government will do next, you’re disagreeing with quite a clever man who helped the UK through two world wars. That was diplomacy in itself.
Another poll was run in The Guardian in April, asking how likely would you be likely to vote on a scale of 1 to 10 and they answered as follows:
52% of 18-34 would vote,
66% of 35-54 would vote,
81% of 55+ would vote.
No harm to everyone over a certain age, but the changes will impact the next thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years. I am pretty sure that of that 81% they are thinking about what we will be facing when they are our age. You can’t even argue that the 66% and the 81% are larger numbers of electorates because they have free time, what with retirement and days off. Last time I checked unemployment between 16-24 year olds is up 16% and there are a good lot of students out there will beautiful summers like mine, reaching from May to September. There is literally no excuse not to vote because anyone is ‘too busy’ (I apologise to anyone who actually is too busy, but you had a chance to postal vote so I take that back.)
Everything will change. You have to go with what you think is right. It’s your decision, make it count. Read, listen, watch, hear, talk and discuss to help evaluate your stance. Don’t just go with who your family is voting for. They don’t have to know. Look up the Leave and Remain websites and look at their arguments. Become an active voice in the country because whether we remain in or leave, tomorrow your voice will join history.
Do you really want to be left out of it because you couldn’t be bothered.
‘Decisions are made by those who who up.’