I have sat quietly during these past 5 years and picked at my already-damaged cuticles, while listening to you hold court with our mates and bemoan the state of modern politics. I haven’t spoken up. I haven’t pushed back.
I have quite literally bitten my tongue (and that bloody hurts by the way) while I watched you insult politicians who I admire and ideas I have faith in, all in the name of dinner party conversational popularity.
But I’m done with my politeness now. Because last night, you went too far.
While lazily reclining on a deck chair in Newtown, you claimed that metaphorical soapbox with your usual zeal and you were, quite simply: a bit of a dick. In a backyard full of bleeding heart lefties, you thought you’d distinguish yourself, prove you’re just that much more outrageously progressive than the rest of us.
And so you had a go at Barack.
In the spirit of a hysterical contestant on America’s Next Top Model, please imagine my finger being waved in your face right now, with my head moving sideways on top of a stationary neck: “Oh no you dinnit.”
But it wasn’t that which pushed me over the edge, it was what came next. As you took the field for a quick game of your favourite sport – trashing the Labor Party – you said that the Americans’ excuse for progressive politics was no better than Australia’s and there was nothing worth celebrating in Obama winning a second term.
You said we shouldn’t hope for a Gillard victory in Australia to follow on from Obama’s in the States because what difference would it make anyway? She’s not a real progressive you ranted. The Labor Party are a mess you cried. Things wouldn’t change that much if Tony Abbott became Prime Minister?
You said that the system was screwed, that you wanted no part of it, that you would cop an electoral commission fine on the chin and wouldn’t even vote next time around.
Yeah. That’s right.
So I’m done with staying quiet now.
My friend, when we walk into a polling booth on election day we are doing so much more than deciding who we would like our local representative to be. We are playing our part in a system that ensures a stable, democratic and peaceful Australia.
An Australia that (to quote the terribly corny but awfully catchy advertising campaign) was founded on a vote not a war. An Australia whose political system may not always produce the charismatic leaders you long for but whose parliamentary processes ensure order and good governance is maintained.
An Australia whose political system – despite facing tests in recent years that would have seen many nations descend into civil war – continues to deliver what its people need to get by every day: clean water to drink, safe roads to drive on, good schools to send their children to, hospitals that come to their aid when they’re sick…
Throughout history, millions have given their lives for the right to have a say in who governs their country; the right that you’re perfectly content to flush down the toilet next year.
Far too many are still fighting today.
Tell me this: Could you look a Saudi Arabian woman in the eyes and tell her that you don’t want to cast your vote in a free, fair and open election? Could you justify the ‘political point’ you’re apparently going to make, to the family of someone killed during the anti-Assad uprising in Syria? How about to a citizen who has been jailed after publicly criticising the Chinese Communist Party? How about to the 15 year old Pakistani girl who took a bullet to the head, in her fight to get a decent education?
The two party system may not be perfect but it gives you choice. While avoiding a parliament dominated by too many warring tribes, it gives us the right to choose while also delivering a functional and workable system of law making.
It is your choice who you vote for and why you vote for them. And I agree, that it is a sad reflection on the offerings of each party if you choose to exercise your vote against the party you don’t want to see in power rather than for the party you do. But the fact remains, you get to choose.
In Australia you have a right to vote, yes. But you also have a responsibility. The relationship between the elector and the elected doesn’t go one way – it’s a contract, a bargain, an agreement – and you have to play your part too.
I know you feel disillusioned by many of the actions of the Australian Labor Party federally. I know you expected and hoped for more from the past 5 years of Government. I did too.
The factional system remains a point of contention and division for the ALP and the influence of the union movement can make those who would otherwise become members, anxious about doing so. A willingness to compromise too far on core progressive beliefs has been terribly disappointing. And the increasing power of the media – thanks to a 24-hour-news-cycle – means that spin prevails over substance far more often than it should.
The ALP can, should and must do better. Yes. But you don’t get to rant and rave that the Government is so focused on spin that it never gets anything done and at the same time bitch and moan that the carbon tax wasn’t ‘sold’ well enough to the electorate.
I am sick of the sniping from the sidelines. I am frustrated by the unwillingness of you and others to participate in a system that makes it so easy for you to do so, nay, encourages you to do so.
You have had a safe and secure upbringing, a first class education and have been given all the wealth and opportunity in the world. Of the 7 billion people living on this planet today – you are the one percent. You have no excuse not to make the most of what you’ve been given.
You have so many platforms available to you, through which you can make your voice heard. And there exists no bigger megaphone than that little lead pencil they give you inside a cardboard polling booth at the local primary school on election day.
Please don’t insult the many millions who are less fortunate than you, by saying you’re not going to use it.